Dad occasionally tells me interesting stories about his encounters with patients (all on a strictly anonymous basis, of course). This was a good one he sent me the other day:
After over 30 years in general practice, you gain a sixth sense for when a patient is actually a drug addict trying to scam a prescription from you. Such was the case yesterday. Just before closing time, in walked a new patient – a young man in his early twenties with a tattooed forearm. He was from out of town, which always rings alarm bells. They come in at the last minute because they think that you are eager to go home and will honour their request quickly. They have often tried all of the doctors in their home area who have quickly become familiar with their stories. Of course these facts in themselves do not make them guilty. However, when they come to you with an elaborate story then the red flag really goes up.
As stories go this was a real doozie.
He started by saying he would let me in on a secret. He had booked a flight to take his girlfriend to New York later that night where he was going to propose to her in the Empire State Building on the 7th anniversary of their initial meeting, which happened to be on the 27/9. His girfriend was still in the dark about it. As he was petrified of flying, he needed something to calm him down. “Something a previous doctor gave me,” he said, but confessing that he forgot what it was. Instantly I was aware that he wanted a script for Valium. But I acted dumb and said that since I do not know what the other doctor had prescribed, I was unable to help him. He screwed up his face and pretended to think hard for a few seconds, before exclaiming: “Valium, he gave me valium!”
Most drug addicts will not come straight up and ask for what they want. That would be too obvious, so they rather manoeuvre you in such a way that you offer it to them. If it is not the right one, they will say that they are allergic to it and you propose another until they get what they want.
As he was consulting with me on the evening of 27/9, I told him that it was physically impossible for him to be at the Empire State Building by the 27th. He said that I had not accounted for the fact that New York was a day behind (which of course I knew). I thought to myself that even if he were to fly off immediately after seeing me, he would still not make it to NY on time as he had to transit in LAX or SFO. So I baited him and casually asked him when his flight was that evening and he replied that he needed to be at the airport at 9pm. He even volunteered the information that he needed to be there at least a couple of hours before his flight. I know that there is a curfew at Sydney airport from 11pm, and it is most unlikely that any airline will schedule a departure time at 11pm. I then explained why I didn’t think that he would be flying off at 11pm and asked him what airline he would be using. He hesitated and, sounding unsure, said Qantas. To prove that Qantas does not fly to LAX in the evening, I logged into the Sydney airport site and showed him that he had already missed his flight.
He was still adamant that he had a flight to catch that evening and said that it was probably at 10pm and not 11pm. I again explained that it was not possible. Qantas does not fly to LAX at that time of the night. Then he finally accepted that fact and said that he screwed up. But it was not over yet.
To prove that he was still going to NY, he then “rang” his girlfriend up and explained the situation to her, then told her to ring up Qantas to rebook the flight for the next day even if he had to “pay a thousand dollars more” (all this without giving her any other details). I’m sure the gf must have been hysterical to find out that she was booked to fly to NY in a couple of hour, but even though I was sitting just across from him, I could not hear her voice at all. Maybe she had a soft voice but I’m not convinced that anyone was on the other line.
In the end I did not honour his request for a script for Valium. To my surprise, he did not get angry – he was just embarrassed to be caught out.
Moral of the story: don’t screw with a doctor who has been practising for longer than you have been alive.