Doctors are often criticized for a tendency to overprescribe drugs, especially in the wake of the opioid epidemic. But in instances of “doctor shopping” (double-doctoring or prescription shopping), the charges don’t often fall on the doctors.
What Is Double-Doctoring?
Double-doctoring is a drug offence where the subject visits multiple doctors for the same issue in an attempt to get multiple prescriptions. They visit one doctor and get a prescription, and then go to another without disclosing that they went to another doctor. This allows them to double their prescriptions.
Double-doctoring can also fraud offences. This occurs where the subject forges false prescriptions on stolen prescription pad paper. It can also occur where the subject alters prescriptions.
Typically, double-doctoring involves a controlled substance. The most common prescription for this charge are:
- Tylenol 3
Although it’s called double-doctoring it can involve more than two doctors. Of course, simply going to more than one doctor is not a crime. Sometimes, getting a second opinion is even recommended. However, it becomes a crime when you fail to disclose other prescriptions given within the past 30 days.
Potential Consequences of Prescription Shopping
Prescription shopping is a drug offence that can result in serious consequences, including fines or imprisonment. Several variables that can contribute to double-doctoring offences. So there is some variability in sentencing options depending on the circumstances.
Typically, these variables are broken into two categories, patient-related factors and physician-related factors:
Patient-related factors often revolve around issues like addiction or psychological dysfunction. As well, they can occur where there are illness variables, like a patient seeking out extra prescriptions due to symptom persistence.
Physician-related factors can also contribute. Some common issues include:
- Long wait times
- Physician attitude
- Inconvenient office hours/location
- Insufficient communication
These physician and patient-related factors have the potential to act as mitigating factors. In contrast to prescription shopping for the purpose of trafficking, factors like illness or addiction generally face less severe consequences.
As well, the severity of the sentencing depends largely on:
Summary or Indictable Conviction
Whether the Crown decides to pursue a summary or indictable conviction for a drug offence has a direct impact on the sentencing. A summary conviction is typically less severe and may simply result in a fine. Whereas an indictable conviction has a higher possibility of jail time.
Schedule of Drugs
The Controlled Substances Act has different classifications for drugs. The severity of sentencing can rely largely on the schedule of drugs involved.
For instance, codeine and morphine are Schedule I drugs. This classification marks them as the most dangerous drugs, with a high potential for psychological or physical dependence. Possessing or attempting to obtain a Schedule I drug can result in a maximum sentence of seven years.
A conviction for trafficking Schedule I or II drugs can make the defendant liable to imprisonment for life.
Possessing or attempting to obtain Schedule IV drugs, like benzodiazepines, result in a maximum sentence of 18 months for a first offence. Schedule IV drugs are classified as a lower potential for abuse, although may result in dependence.
First or Subsequent Offence
Subsequent offences for prescription shopping face more severe sentencing than first offences. However, first-time offenders can go to jail. For a summary conviction, a subsequent offence may include higher fines, longer imprisonment, or both.
What to do if Arrested on Prescription Shopping Charges
If you are arrested for a drug offence the first step thing you should do is contact a criminal lawyer. Upon arrest and detention, you have the right to demand a lawyer, without delay. Do not talk to anyone about your case until you speak with your lawyer.
Until you talk to a defence lawyer the only info you are required to give police is your name, birth date, and address.
In addition to hiring a criminal defence lawyer, it’s a good idea to seek professional help, such as addiction counselling.
Addiction is one of the most common mitigating factors in double-doctoring. Serious attempts to deal with addiction can result in a more favourable outcome in Court.
William Jaksa is a Toronto defence attorney with experience and success in handling drug offences. He will help you understand your charges, your options, and the potential outcomes. Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.