How do I deal with a drug seeker patient?

Some people “fake” or exaggerate their chronic illnesses in order to obtain drugs. These patients are often hospital regulars who are readmitted time and time again.

If you suspect that a patient seeking certain drugs is an addict, share this concern with the physician immediately. This is extremely important because oftentimes doctors can be unaware of these drug-seeking tendencies. Once they’re armed with knowledge about the drug seeking patient, MDs may choose to prescribe different medication or put limits on the prescription.

If you find that a patient has repeatedly been able to badger or manipulate his way past a certain doctor, speak with another doctor or a hospital supervisor about the patient. That person might have a better idea of whether the patient is exaggerating for drugs. If the behavior persists, the patient may need a psychiatric consult to evaluate the degree of dependency on the said drug.
Let’s say that even against your best judgment, even after you’ve expressed your concern, you are ordered to provide drugs for a drug seeking patient. It’s your responsibility to do so. Remember that ultimately it’s the doctor’s job to decide whether the patient should be treated.

Remember though, that seekers may get violent and angry when not given the drugs they seek. They may shout, scream and badger until the drugs are administered. Remain calm, get help if the patient becomes unruly, and do not give in to unreasonable demands.

Above all, keep an eye on the drug seeker once they are admitted. They may act as if the hospital is their personal hotel, sneaking out for smoke breaks or walking around as if they own the floor. The best thing you can do is tell the doctor who admitted the patient about the patient’s behavior.

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