Across the United States, more than 64,000 drug-related overdose deaths took place during 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC blames opioids in more than two-thirds of these cases, and a portion of these was from drugs that a medical professional prescribed.
Over Prescribing for Chronic Pain Control
A person who suffers from chronic pain simply wants relief. Opioid medications are often used following surgical procedures such as joint replacements, broken bones, or when a patient suffers massive lacerations. These drugs are among the strongest, giving patients immediate, lasting relief from their pain. However, until recently, many patients were never advised about the potential for addiction to opioids after long-term use.
Controlling pain by the most effective, least addictive means is necessary. While most patients who are prescribed opioid medications for pain control will never abuse the drug, a physician who over-prescribes these medications can contribute to the problem. For example, after a surgical procedure, it would be common to receive a week’s supply of a painkiller. In some instances, physicians prescribe a 30-day supply rather than seven days. Even when the patient does not use the extra medication, the potential for someone in the household to use them or sell them to a third party exists.
Considering the high potential for abuse, the CDC has issued new guidelines for physicians who are prescribing any class of opioid drug for pain control. These guidelines are designed for patients over the age of 18. These new guidelines also contain some recommended steps for monitoring patients who are prescribed opioids.
Understanding Overdose Statistics
Drugs including Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®), Methadone, and Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) are often prescribed for pain control. More men lose their lives to overdose deaths than women. Deaths from prescription opioids are highest for those in the 25 to 54-year-old age group. These statistics are sobering, and in some cases, the death could have been prevented with proper patient education and proper intake prior to prescribing an opioid pain reliever.
Understanding a Physician’s Responsibility to Patients
Every time we visit a physician’s office we expect the highest level of care. One of the first things we typically are asked to do is to offer a medical history when we are seeing a doctor for the first time. Should a physician fail to obtain a thorough medical history, there is a chance they may overlook important information. Doctors should have a heightened awareness of the potential for issues in certain patients. For example, a doctor should know when the patient last saw a doctor, the reason for the visit, and any medications prescribed. Patients who suffer from an addiction often “shop” for doctors, which should raise red flags. If your family member has a problem with any type of addiction, it is possible they are visiting numerous doctors in their search for obtaining new prescriptions for opioids.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Opioid Abuse
By some estimates, in 2014 there were more than two million people addicted to opioids. One of the most important things a family member can do is be aware of the possibility their loved one is addicted to opioid drugs; this means understanding the symptoms. You should monitor the following:
- Social changes: If your loved one suddenly starts spending time alone, avoiding family members, or changing groups of friends, they may be displaying early signs of potential addiction.
- Personal changes: A loved one who fails to take care of themselves, including displaying signs of poor hygiene or wearing dirty clothing, may be sending a signal. Be aware of these changes, particularly if they have recently been diagnosed with an injury that may have required pain medications.
- Mood changes: If you notice your loved one has lost interest in activities they previously enjoyed, are displaying signs of nervousness, or have other dramatic mood changes, this could present a possible sign of an addiction problem. Someone who shows signs of constant exhaustion, far too much energy, serious depression, or who begins suddenly talking quickly, should raise red flags among family members.
- Other changes: Loved ones who have suddenly developed odd sleeping hours, begin missing appointments, fail to attend work or school regularly, a sudden and unexplained financial hardship, or start facing legal problems may be suffering from an opioid problem.
Contacting an Aventura Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Cases of opioid addiction are not always because of medical malpractice, which is why it is important to consult with a lawyer who understands these cases. In the event a physician over-prescribes a drug, provides an opioid to someone with a history of abuse, or fails to inform a patient about the possible consequences of using an opioid for long-term pain control, it may be possible to hold them accountable.
One must remember many opioid deaths are not directly attributable to prescriptions; rather, the person addicted to a prescription opioid may turn to street drugs to continue getting the high they experienced during the use of a prescription drug. The more information you can provide an attorney pertaining to medical history, drug use and abuse history, and other medical information, the easier it may be for them to determine if the addiction could have been prevented with proper medical attention.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP understands how difficult it is for family members to watch a loved one suffer addiction, and we also know the pain your family feels when losing a loved one because of opioid addiction. You can contact us today at (954) 302-7068 or write to us online to speak with an Aventura medical malpractice attorney or schedule a free consultation. We can review the specifics of your situation, and help you determine if there is a course of action you can follow to hold someone accountable for your loved one’s addiction or death. While not every case of addiction is a result of medical malpractice, when they are, we may be able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
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