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Video Game Helps Doctors Screen for Patients Who Need Addiction Help

You’ve probably heard of doctor-shopping – going from one doctor to another faking symptoms so you can get a prescription for painkillers (or some other drug.) People do it to support their own habit, and some do it so they can sell the drugs to others. Obviously, anyone who’s doing it to support their own habit needs addiction help, but doctors often have the wool pulled over their eyes and can’t tell that they’re dealing with someone who’s lying. Until now, and thanks to, of all things, a video game.

Okay, so maybe this won’t enable all doctors to tell when all ‘patients’ are lying, but it certainly will help. Here’s how it works.

First of all, the game teaches doctors to look for signs of drug abuse – e.g. breaking eye contact, fidgeting and finger-tapping, or having a history of family problems. He’s also given various options to choose from regarding questions to ask a patient and how to respond to them.

And then the doctor sees the patient – but he’s not a real patient, he’s an actor who appears on the computer monitor. The actor has many scripts to use: e.g. “I was in a car accident a couple of years ago and my back is still killing me. I’ve tried everything – even went to a chiropractor – and nothing helps except the pain pills. Some days I can’t even go to work.”

The doctor asks his questions, the actor answers with his script, and so it goes.

The game has an impressive number of variables: About 2,000 statements that could be made by a patients – and they’re done with appropriate emotions, some nice, some charming, some distraught, some angry and abusive, etc. – and 1,500 hundred different questions and responses the doctor can choose.

The test was developed by interviewing over 1,000 patients who get painkillers from their doctor.

Recognizing this type of ‘patient’ is not something doctors are trained on in medical school, but that’s all about to change. The game will soon be available online to medical schools and healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, it’s not free of charge so I hope it’s not too expensive and plenty of schools and doctors are willing to pay for it.

The training and the questions and answers cover so much ground that I can’t see how it couldn’t help.

Abuse of and addiction to prescription drugs is killing a lot of people. More people die from drug overdoses than traffic accidents, and 75 percent of those deaths involve prescription drugs – especially OxyContin and other opioid painkillers. If you know someone who’s dealing with OxyContin addiction, it’s a good idea to get them into OxyContin rehab as soon as possible.

Doctors need this sort of training. Let’s hope a lot of them do the program, quickly.

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