Patients who are recovering from a painful injury or surgical procedure are often prescribed narcotic or opioid medications to help alleviate the pain. These medications are extremely effective in reducing a patient’s pain and making life tolerable during recovery. Unfortunately, these medications also carry a significant risk for addiction.
Is Pain Medication Addiction Common?
Narcotic pain medications are made from opium, the highly addictive substance found in heroin. Narcotic pain medications also contain forms of codeine and morphine. Synthetic opioids are equally addicting, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet. The issue with these medications is that a patient cannot stop taking them once he or she becomes addicted. While most people can stop, those who cannot break the addiction on their own need professional intervention.
It is estimated that only 4.5 percent of pain medication patients actually become addicted. However, 4.5 percent is still a risk – and one that some physicians are not aware of or care about. But, if a patient becomes addicted, is it the physician’s fault or the patient’s? Could that physician be held legally liable for the patient’s addiction?
Medical Malpractice and Pain Addiction Claims
Medical malpractice is when a physician provides a substandard level of care – meaning that another physician in a similar position would have treated or acted differently. In the case of the pain medication, often, the prescribing physician has a genuine reason for prescribing – such as a patient recovering from surgery. In other words, other physicians in a similar position would have also prescribed.
In order to file a medical malpractice suit against a physician for pain killer addiction, you would need to show that the physician acted negligently. This often means showing that the physician over-prescribed pain medications to the patient; thus, giving him or her the opportunity to become addicted. Also, if you have had previous addictions and the physician still prescribed a narcotic pain medication, that could be considered negligent. Or, if you suffer from chronic pain, but the physician prescribes pain medication long-term without any referral to a pain management program, you may have evidence that the physician is negligent.
Understanding Your Own Risks
Pain medication addiction is not always an issue of malpractice. It is important to also understand your own risks for addiction, and discuss them with your physician before accepting a pain medication prescription. According to a recent Daily News article, there are some common risk factors among addicts, including:
- A family history of addiction
- Attention deficit or hyperactivity disorders
- History of depression and/or anxiety
- Being male – men are more likely to become dependent than women
- Lack of family involvement or attention
- Peer pressure
- Health problems associated with a dependence
- Changes in the brain chemistry – such as a death of brain cells – that interfere with the ability to make decisions
Speak with an Attorney if You Suspect That Your Physician Has Led to Your Addiction
If your physician has over-prescribed pain medications and you have become addicted, you can seek help from a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney will not only hold the physician responsible, but ensure that your additional costs (such as rehabilitative treatments) are covered. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Call us at 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.