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Prescription Drug Misuse Prevention Tips for Clinicians

Evidence-based screening tools for nonmedical use of prescription drugs can be incorporated into routine medical visits (see the NIDAMED webpage for resources for medical and health professionals). Doctors should also take note of rapid increases in the amount of medication needed or frequent, unscheduled refill requests. Doctors should be alert to the fact that those misusing prescription drugs may engage in “doctor shopping”—moving from provider to provider—in an effort to obtain multiple prescriptions for their drug(s) of choice.

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), state-run electronic databases used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients, are also important tools for preventing and identifying prescription drug misuse. While research regarding the impact of these programs is currently mixed, the use of PDMPs in some states has been associated with lower rates of opioid prescribing and overdose, though issues of best practices, ease of use, and interoperability remain to be resolved.

Preventing or stopping nonmedical use of prescription drugs is an important part of patient care. However, certain patients can benefit from prescription stimulants, sedatives, or opioid pain relievers. Therefore, physicians should balance the legitimate medical needs of patients with the potential risk for misuse and related harms.