I'm currently watching season 3 of House M.D. and I'm a bit confused. He tries to get Vicodin from his coworkers and even visits an external doc but since he is a doc himself why doesn't he prescribe Vicodin for his own use?

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    It seems to be classified as unethical by the American Medical Association (under Opinion 8.19) except In emergency settings or isolated settings where there is no other qualified physician available, but I can't find much information on what this actually means. The AMA FAQ makes it sound like the doctor has to be a member of the AMA (only 30% of US doctors are) and that someone else in the AMA would have to complain about it, and then it could be investigated and their membership could be suspended, but that doesn't seem to mean anything more than being barred from joining a union ... Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 17:49
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    ... They also say Except in emergencies, it is not appropriate for physicians to write prescriptions for controlled substances for themselves or immediate family members. Both of these suggest to me that it's not illegal (at least at a federal level), but I'll wait and see if anyone else can find out more. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 17:51
  • If it were simply due to the fact that it was unethical then House would get around it. I believe he does steal other doctors prescription pads and write himself some at one point but using the other doctor's signature. What I believe the TL;DR version of what @CrowTRobot is saying though is that there are regulations against doctors being able to write prescriptions for themselves.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:57
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    I guess that in the case of House, he was simply concerned that the constant self-prescribing of vicodin (an opiate) would have certainly raised more than one flag. He just knows he couldn't get away with it. article. It also seems that in America the matter is disciplined at a State level, therefore it may vary a lot article2
    – Pesetas74
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:14
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    @crow unethical behavior is grounds for legal punishment for certain professions, like a doctor or lawyer.
    – cde
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


House is not allowed to self-prescribe. It is not clear if this is all doctors or just Cuddy's restriction on House, but this is the case. This can be seen a few seasons later when House has to ask Wilson for a legitimate prescription.

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    This appears to be the case after season 3 (pace Tritter) but it doesn't explain why he's stealing vicodin from his patients as early as season one. There's also the impression given in one of the episodes that his addiction began before his leg injury.
    – user7812
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 0:09
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    "it doesn't explain why he's stealing vicodin from his patients as early as season one". Yes it does. House does actually have an addiction, and therefore he sneakily gets a few extra pills (so as to hide it from whoever writes his prescription and therefore hiding the addiction). At this point (S1), House has not yet gotten to a point where the addiction drives him or derails his life; but he is addicted nonetheless.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 9:59
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    "There's also the impression given in one of the episodes that his addiction began before his leg injury" House never took Vicodin until the leg injury. However, House's personality (tortured genius) is very prone to seeking out extreme things. This manifests as addictions, but not just substance addiction. House's need for puzzles and being clever is as much a psychological addiction as his Vicodin is. It just so happens that the Vicodin also has a physical addiction on top of the psychological one. House has always had an addictive personality, not a Vicodin addiction.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 10:02

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