Opioid addiction is one of the most dangerous health crises in America.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than one-quarter of patients who are prescribed opioids for pain relief misuse the medications, and between eight and twelve percent end up addicted. Each day, 115 people in the United States die of opioid overdoses; three of those are North Carolina residents.
Despite these alarming statistics, millions of people are prescribed medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine for acute and chronic pain.
Many addicts, when they are unable to obtain prescriptions, turn to illegal drugs like heroin. To what extent may a doctor be held responsible when a patient becomes addicted to prescription medications?
Malpractice Attorneys Can Help
There has been a great increase in opioid use in the United States in the last twenty years, even though the addictive properties of these drugs are well known. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against doctors, pharmacies, and drug manufacturers, alleging that opioids have been overprescribed, and that they have been prescribed for conditions for which they are not necessary.
There are several bases for malpractice actions against physicians when a patient is injured or dies from opioid addiction. First, patients have alleged that their physicians prescribed opioids for longer periods than was medically necessary or safe. Many patients are prescribed opioids for conditions that could be managed as effectively with less addictive medications, or with other treatments. For example, the effectiveness of opioid pain medications for chronic conditions has been widely questioned. Patients have also alleged that their doctors failed to recognize, or ignored, signs of addiction. Finally, in cases when signs of addiction have been recognized, abruptly ceasing medication can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, sometimes leading to suicides.
Where Are People Getting Opioids?
A common source of opioid prescriptions are pain clinics, independent treatment centers devoted to treating patients suffering from chronic pain. Only half of the pain clinics in North Carolina were owned by physicians, according to a comprehensive study done in 2009 by physicians at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Slightly over one-quarter of the clinics offered any type of physical therapy, and only one-third employed any mental health professionals. Many former patients, government agencies, and investigators have characterized pain clinics as little more than drug distribution centers for opioid addicts. Most pain clinics, of course, are staffed by well-trained medical professionals, but it is important to do some research before starting pain management treatment.
Call A North Carolina Malpractice Lawyer
Opioid addiction can ruin the life of not only the addicted patient, but also their entire family. Despite the alarming statistics on addiction rates for opioid pain medications, millions of patients are prescribed these medications daily. Talk to your doctor about the dangers of opioids if you are prescribed any of the drugs mentioned above. If you or a family member has experienced opioid addiction after being prescribed pain medication, there may be some legal options available to you. If your doctor or clinic continued to prescribe opioids after the recommended amount of time, or failed to warn you or recognize signs of addiction, some legal recourse may be available. Although there are time limits for filing medical malpractice suits in North Carolina, do not assume that it is too late to file. Call 704-769-2316 to set up a free consultation with one of the medical malpractice attorneys at Campbell & Associates.