It seems that every day, the media covers a story involving a tragic opioid overdose or more statistics revealing the growing problem of opioid addiction. Perhaps your family has suffered its own tragedy of a loved one who struggles with an addiction to narcotics or whose prescription drug problem led to an addiction to heroin or other deadly drugs.
Despite the evidence that opioid dependency often begins with a doctor’s prescription, surgeons and other physicians continue to overprescribe, even to patients who already show signs of addiction. Prescribing more pills than a patient can safely use or failure to monitor the number or refills on a prescription for an addictive drug can result in substance abuse such as the one that has brought suffering to your family.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction to opioids, you are certainly not alone. Opioid addiction touches nearly every household in New Mexico and across the country, and researchers have concluded that the liberal prescribing practices of doctors may play a key role in that problem. Since there are no standards for how much to prescribe a patient for pain, some doctors indiscriminately write orders for powerful narcotics when they are not necessary, leading to the following scenarios:
- Nearly 28 percent of patients receiving elective surgery said their doctor prescribed too many opioids, and the patients had pills leftover after their recovery.
- About one-third of patients said they did not use any of the opioids their doctors prescribed after surgery.
- After recovery, more than 90 percent of patients leave their unused opioids around the house instead of properly disposing of them, such as flushing them down the toilet.
- Many who end up addicted to heroin admit their substance abuse began when they started taking leftover opioids prescribed to a friend or family member.
Research shows that the pain following some surgical procedures, such as joint replacement, rotator cuff surgery and lung removal, result in pain only an opioid can relieve. These patients often use their prescriptions and ask for refills. However, other procedures, such as hernia repair, lumpectomies and surgery for carpal tunnel, result in less pain more easily managed by over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories.
Nevertheless, your loved one’s doctor may have prescribed a powerful narcotic after a simple procedure or may have written a prescription for more pills than your loved one needed to manage the pain of an injury. If you feel your loved one’s addiction or overdose was the result of negligent prescribing practices, you may wish to seek legal advice about your options for pursuing justice.