Featured News 2018 The Dangers of Opioids & Prescription Painkillers

The Dangers of Opioids & Prescription Painkillers

As one of the most highly prescribed medications throughout the United States, the opioid epidemic is finally being recognized as a serious public problem in cities across the country. Still, doctors are prescribing opioids for all kinds of minor conditions, often without stopping to think of the sometimes fatal consequences. Some hospitals have implemented programs that penalize physicians who prescribe these medications without proper cause.

What Counts as an Opioid?

As an addictive drug in nature, an opioid is a high-strength painkiller that is very commonly prescribed after any type of medical procedure or at the onset of any level of pain. These painkillers are used to react with certain receptors in the brain and spinal cord in order to ease pain, in addition to reducing a person's emotional response to pain. Some of the most commonly prescribed opioids include OxyContin, Norco, Vicodin, and more.

Doctors Prescribe Opioids 4 Times More Often Than They Used To

Over the last decade alone, research has proven that the number of prescriptions for some of the strongest types of these painkillers has increased almost fourfold. Federal data shows that the long-term effectiveness and risks are still mostly unknown. While these painkillers appear to have many benefits for a user, they are widely abused and trafficked on the streets, often in younger age groups.

In addition to the high risk for abuse and addiction, data has suggested that many patients in hospitals and under the care of practitioners are receiving potentially harmful dosages. While federal agencies were once concerned about opioids on the streets, in middle schools and high schools, and for recreational use, the spotlight has turned to the context which many believed was safest: the doctor's office. With the sudden increase in prescriptions for this class of drugs for the treatment of broken bones, back injuries, arthritis, and virtually any other condition that causes pain, people question the benefit vs. the cost of prescribing painkillers so readily.

Is It Negligent to Prescribe Opioids for Minor Conditions?

While there is little question that these drugs help those suffering from pain, is it worth the risk? According to studies, it appears that long-term users of painkillers can develop a psychological dependency on common opioids. Doctors and other medical professionals are expected to maintain a close watch on their patients, making sure that they still require the drugs that they are taking and weaning them off of any drug that they may no longer need.

Could failure to monitor a patient's dependence on narcotics constitute medical negligence?

Dissenting voices in the medical profession have taken an active stance against the overprescription of opioids, specifically in Washington. Last year, state lawmakers imposed requirements on the way doctors prescribe increasing doses of opioids. The law requires patients to undergo analysis by a pain specialist to determine if the patient's underlying pain has improved or requires the use of higher dosages.

Opioid Addiction Is a Public Health Hazard

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked doctors and medical professionals to be more cautious in prescribing these medications, as more prescriptions in the hands of users can lead to a more readily available drug on the streets. Why have the CDC and many other organizations become so interested in this problem? According to the most recent year of data from 2008, there were an approximate 14,800 deaths due to prescription painkillers. It qualifies as a public health hazard.

With the astronomical value of the pharmaceutical industry and the ever increasing reasons to prescribe these drugs, many are worried that more instances of abuse and addiction may stem from these doctors' inability to effectively evaluate a patient's current situation. If you or a family member has been affected by a prescription drug that was dangerous in nature or has led to addiction, it is best to talk to an attorney right away. A lawyer will be able to protect your rights and help you understand more about the options available to you to find a way to heal and compensate for your losses.

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