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Pill mills and painkillers: What you don't know can kill you

It's probably safe to say that most people who go to a doctor to treat their acute or chronic pain don't go intending to end up addicted to painkillers.

Unfortunately, a lot of people end up hooked on prescription painkillers because doctors -- even good ones -- are prescribing too many narcotics. For example, studies have shown that almost three-fourths of doctors believe that morphine and Oxycontin give the best short-term pain relief, even though non-prescription drugs like Advil are actually more effective.

Since even good doctors make mistakes where prescription narcotics are involved, how can a patient tell the difference between a legitimate pain clinic or doctor and a "pill mill" that is just pushing out pills in order to make quick cash?

-- The doctor may ask you what prescription you want instead of telling you what he or she would like to try first.

-- The clinic may offer to fill your prescription for you if you have the cash.

-- Some pill mills do accept insurance, but you should be suspicious if you're at an office that only accepts cash and doesn't bill your insurance.

-- You may have little or no physical exam.

-- The doctor makes little or no attempt to verify the source of your pain. He or she just takes your word for it.

-- The doctor only treats pain with pills. He or she does not refer patients to physical therapy, use cortisone injections or other procedures.

-- They may have a huge crowd of patients waiting to see the doctor. This isn't unusual in a legitimate clinic, either. However, many out-of-state license plates on the cars in the parking lot probably indicates a pill mill with a big reputation.

There are other possible signs as well, some more blatant than others. While some of the pill mills can be almost obvious, others will look like a neat, orderly pain clinic on the surface. However, trust your instincts -- if you get the feeling the doctor is more interested in giving you pills than stopping your pain, find a new doctor.

Fatal drug overdoses are at an all-time high, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that prescription painkillers are part of the cause. If you lost a close relative due to painkiller addiction and overdose, an attorney can provide more information on how to proceed.

Source: Recovery Restart, "Know The Signs To Avoid Pill Mills," accessed April 25, 2017

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