Indicators of Drug Seeking Behavior

Typical requests and complaints

  • Aggressively complaining about a need for a drug
  • Asking for specific drugs by name
  • Asking for brand names
  • Requesting to have the dose increased
  • Claiming multiple allergies to alternative drugs
  • Anger or irritability when questioned closely about symptoms such as pain

Inappropriate self-medicating

  • Taking a few extra, unauthorised doses on occasion
  • Hoarding drugs
  • Using a controlled substance for non-pain relief purposes (e.g. to enhance mood, aid sleep)
  • Injecting an oral formulation

Inappropriate use of general practice

  • Visiting multiple doctors for controlled substances (doctor shopping)
  • Frequently calling the clinic
  • Frequent unscheduled clinic visits for early refills
  • Consistently disruptive behavior when arriving at the clinic
  • Consistently calling outside of clinic hours or when a particular doctor who prescribes controlled substances is on call

Resistant behaviour

  • Unwilling to consider other drugs or non-drug treatments
  • Frequent unauthorized dose escalations after being told that it is inappropriate
  • Unwilling to sign controlled substances agreement
  • Refusing diagnostic workup or consultation

Manipulative or illegal behavior

  • Claiming to be on a waiting list for, or unable to afford, dental work and needing to manage dental pain
  • Obtaining controlled drugs from family members (including stealing from older relatives)
  • Using aliases
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Pattern of lost or stolen prescriptions
  • Selling drugs
  • Obtaining controlled drugs from illicit sources

Other typical behaviors

  • Being more concerned about the drug than a medical problem
  • Deterioration at home or work or reduction of social activities because of adverse drug effects

From  Dealing with drug-seeking behaviorAdapted with permission from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Prescribing drugs of dependence in general practice, Part A – Clinical governance framework. Melbourne: RACGP, 2015. [cited 2016 May 1]

The best way to avoid drug seeking behavior is to check the Controlled Substances Monitoring Database.