Heroin Addiction Caused by Prescription Opioids

June 2, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Heroin Addiction Caused by Prescription Opioids

Can I Sue for Heroin Addiction Caused by Prescription Opioids?

One of the most well-known drugs that causes severe damage to those addicted to it is heroin. Typically derived from morphine taken from the seed pod of the poppy plant, heroin has existed since the late 19th century causing intense addiction and deadly overdoses all over the world. As the United States still grapples with the effects of the opioid crisis, the danger of heroin and the damage it can cause is more relevant than ever. The prescribing of opioid drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies has led to the mass addiction that has led to the opioid crisis. What makes this even worse is how those addicted to prescription opioids switch to illegal heroin and then face a downward spiral that ends in overdose and then death.  The question that faces many people who are dealing with severe addiction to heroin or loved ones with severe heroin addictions is who is responsible and can they be held accountable. There are legal options for people that have been affected by addiction and death caused by the opioid crisis. Claims and lawsuits can be filed to seek restitution from the liable parties that contributed to opioid abuse occurring because of prescription opioids. 

Prescription Opioid Lawsuits and Claims

 To seek compensation for the damage caused by prescription opioid addiction, a person can file a personal injury claim. There are two likely ways personal injury law may have the grounds to seek compensation for heroin addiction caused by the use of prescription opioids. A patient that develops addiction issues because of the prescription of opioids may be able to consider the pharmaceutical companies that manufactured and distributed the prescription opioids liable. These companies like Purdue were found to have marketed their products to doctors misleadingly. Things like the addiction risk that came with drugs such as oxycontin and the potential health problems it can cause were lied about resulting in one of the worst drug crises in history. Patients affected by this negligence can try to file a product liability claim and seek a settlement on the basis that the company that made the prescription opioids negligently put out a defective product or misleadingly marketed product that caused them harm.

Medical Malpractice Prescription Opioid Claims

On the other hand, a person that has developed severe addiction problems because of the prescription of opioids can try to hold the prescriber of those opioids liable in a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice is when a medical professional does not offer treatment that is up to the standard of care because of negligence and harms their patient as a result.  Doctors can cause the addiction of their patients to prescription opioids by failing to follow the proper procedure that is part of the standard of care. For example, many doctors have been found to overprescribe opioids to patients which caused them to develop a severe opioid addiction. When a doctor overprescribes opioids they are going outside of the normal prescription limits in comparison with their peers. This comparison between what a doctor does and what their peers in a similar situation do is the basis of the standard of care and whether or not they can be considered liable for medical malpractice. 

Ways Doctors Can Cause Opioid Addiction

  • Overprescription of opioids (Too high a dose or too many doses)
  • Neglecting to check up on a patient
  • Not checking a patient's medical history for addiction risk factors
  • Prescribing opioids for mild injuries
  • Vending opioid prescriptions as a mill

Why Do Prescription Opioids Cause Heroin Addiction?

There is a lot in common between prescription opioids and heroin. Both cause similar effects of relaxation, numbing, and a sense of euphoria. They are both opioids and therefore are very addictive due to the feelings of euphoria they produce among users caused by the substance's binding to opioid receptors and the release of dopamine which causes a pleasing sensation meant to be used by the body to provide positive reinforcement for certain behaviors. The major differences between the two are that prescription opioids are a regulated substance that have uniform effects that typically are a gradual release of typical opioid sensations. Heroin is a completely illegal schedule 1 substance that is unregulated meaning that each iteration of heroin can be very different in potency and composition. Prescription opioids include: 
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®
  • Percocet®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
When someone takes these drugs for long enough and in sufficient amounts, their body can develop a tolerance and a dependence on the substance in addition to a high chance of addiction. Patients that take prescription opioids can start to see the effects of the drug as their saving grace and when it is taken away they can experience withdrawal which is the onset of negative symptoms due to lack of use of opioids. As this happens, a patient's tolerance for an opioid's effects grows meaning they need higher and higher doses to not only experience the effect they desire but also to stave off the negative effects of withdrawal. In addition to this, dependence on opioids can cause a person to need the substance to feel normalized since their brain chemistry adapts to the effects. 

Opioid Addiction, Desperation, and Heroin

As a result of all of this, a person will become desperate for their prescription opioids which a doctor can only prescribe so much. In many situations, a doctor eventually does have to stop prescribing opioids and a person is left with addiction making them either seek prescription opioids from another source or resort to using the very similar heroin which in many cases can actually be cheaper and more readily available.  The doctors and companies that are responsible for this deadly path to heroin addiction and the deadly overdoses that come along with it because of prescription opioids they got into the hands of patients can potentially be considered liable. A patient needs to be able to prove that their addiction is the fault of either medical malpractice on the part of the doctor that prescribed the opioids or a company whose distribution or manufacture of the opioids was negligent in a way that opens them up for a product liability lawsuit. 

Seek an Experienced Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one due to opioid overdose that a medical professional such as a doctor's negligence helped cause, seek the advice of Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. Our attorneys can help you compile evidence of the negligence of another party such as a doctor that committed medical malpractice. Establishing negligent behavior is critical to the strength and success of a personal injury claim or lawsuit. An experienced personal injury attorney regularly calculates the damages that injured parties are entitled to. When necessary, they may coordinate with experts to ensure all relevant damages are included in an injured party's demand. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can also assist injured parties in determining whether to take a case to trial or to accept a settlement offer. The assistance of an attorney may help take the stress off the personal representative in making these vital decisions. To contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA about a free consultation regarding your wrongful death case, either call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form online. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 N Belcher Rd Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/medical-malpractice-lawyer/  


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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