Have Opioid Problems Increased Because Of Medical Malpractice?

Thanks to advances in science and medicine, many pharmaceutical products have been developed which can save and enhance lives, and which provide important health benefits to patients. But while society has fought the proliferation of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines for many generations, the current opioid epidemic demonstrates the need across Oregon and the United States to address the abuse of and addiction to prescription medications. Solving the problem could take years, and any solution must necessarily include steps to end current addiction, prevent future addiction, and hold those accountable who wrongfully cause addiction.

What Is an Opioid, and What are Some Common Names of Prescription Medicines?

Opioids are a class of medications most commonly used to reduce pain. The drugs can also produce feelings of calmness, euphoria, and relaxation. When used properly, these medications can be effective. Unfortunately, when misused, they can be highly addictive. Below is a list of common opioids that require prescriptions, with one or two brand name examples for each. Keep in mind that there are many other brands not listed.

  • Hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin, Zohydro)
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq)
  • Codeine (Tylenol 3 with codeine, Robitussin AC)
  • Morphine (MS Contin)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet and Oxycontin)
  • Methodone (Methadose, Dolophine)

Scope of the Problem and Costs to Individuals and Society

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 26.4 million to 36 million people worldwide abuse opioids. For individuals, opioids, when misused, can cause physical and emotional harm, and overdose can cause death. Statistics show that approximately 90 Americans die every day from prescription opioid overdose. Individuals can also be harmed economically by incurring the cost to purchase the drugs and in obtaining treatment to break the addiction.

The cost is also great to society. The country loses important contributions from citizens who become unproductive. Criminal behavior increases when addicted persons take desperate measures to obtain the drugs. According to a 2016 study, the economic cost of the opioid epidemic to America at $78.5 billion.

The Role of Doctors in the Opioid Epidemic

It is clear that doctors have played a role in the opioid epidemic. Statistics show that of the 90 Americans who die every day from opioid abuse, 62 of those deaths involve prescription opioids. While doctors cannot be blamed for all of these deaths, there are many cases in which doctors are culpable. Consider that from 1992 to 2015, the number of opioid prescriptions written increased from 112 million to 249 million. Studies show that many doctors over-prescribe these medications. Dr. S.Y. Tan, an emeritus professor of medicine, concludes that there are opioid-related deaths that have resulted from reckless, wanton, or negligent behavior by doctors in prescribing opioids when they are not properly indicated; by prescribing them in incorrect amounts; and in a failure to follow-up appropriately. When doctors fail to meet the applicable standard of care, they can be held liable for their medical malpractice which causes harm to patients.

Talk with an Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of opioid addiction, you may have questions about your legal rights. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we believe that an important part of correcting societal problems is holding wrongdoers accountable, including Oregon doctors who commit medical malpractice, which protects all of us. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help you investigate and analyze your circumstances. Please contact us with questions, or for a free consultation.

Helpful Links

Huffington Post article – “Doctors Play A Role In The Opioid Addiction Epidemic, Study Finds” - https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doctors-opioid-addiction_us_55e8e486e4b093be51bb10f2

Time online article – “How Doctors Are Fueling the Opioid Epidemic” - http://time.com/4675325/doctors-opioid-epidemic/


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