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Top 10 Signs Your Patient May Be a Drug Seeker

Top 10 Signs Your Patient May Be a Drug Seeker

Scrubs Magazine | Brady Pregerson, MD & Rebekah Child, RN

Let’s face it: We’ve all doubted certain patients’ complaints of pain. We’ve all wondered whether their “pain” was really a not-so-cleverly disguised cry for a cheap fix. So how do you know if your patient is in pain—or just wants drugs?

In Part I and Part II of our Pain Management series, ER doc Brady Pregerson and Nurse Rebekah Child examined the challenge of accurately assessing a patient’s pain, as well as the perils and pitfalls of simply dispensing the dope any time a patient asks. In this article, they point you to signs and symptoms that may indicate your patient has more than physical pain on his mind.

How to Recognize a Seeker

Dr. Brady: What do I do when I have a patient who I think is feigning illness in an effort to get narcotics? It depends.

First and foremost, I do my best to make sure I’m not missing something. If you let your guard down, you will eventually get burned.

I also find it useful and relatively simple to check and see how often the patient comes to the hospital. If she’s here less than five or six times a year, I worry less than if she’s here every month. But you have to be careful with this test, as some patients with real disease, such as sickle cell disease, really do need our services that frequently. Plus, in urban areas, some patients just visit different EDs every month; checking their home address may give a clue to this one.

Another thing I like to do is call the patient’s doctor, if she has one, to get more information.

Next: Nurse Rebekah’s Take >>

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