These are the most common symptoms of an opioid overdose according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Gurgling or choking sounds
- Loss of consciousness or falling asleep
- Constricted “pinpoint” pupils
- Cold, pale, or bluish skin
- Limp body
Opioid overdoses cause shallow, interrupted breathing that can quickly lead to brain damage and death. If you suspect that someone is overdosing, call 9-1-1.
More Americans Than Ever Are Overdosing on Opioids
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdose in 2017. This figure breaks the previous year’s record-setting opioid overdose deaths of 42,000 in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Most Opioids Are Legally Available With a Prescription
Opioids have many of the same characteristics as opium and are highly addictive. Opioids include illegal drug heroin and synthetic versions such as fentanyl. Many opioids are available by prescription only. They include oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and others.
HHS estimates that 40 percent of these overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid. In addition to this tragic loss of life, the economic burden of prescription opioid misuse and addiction costs Americans more than $78 billion, according to Science Daily.
How Opioid Abuse Could Be an Indication of Medical Malpractice
More doctors and other medical professionals began prescribing opioids in the last twenty years for pain management and other health issues. While many doctors are careful in prescribing opioids, others are not.
Despite knowing the risks for addiction and overdose, some doctors are careless about opioid prescriptions. There are several health risks from medical professionals who unwisely prescribe opioids. These include:
- Dosage is too potent for a patient with consideration to their age, weight, and tolerance.
- Non-narcotic pain relievers that are more suitable for a patient’s health conditions.
- Opioids should not be prescribed for patients at risk of addiction.
- Failure to monitor patients while they are taking opioids for misuse, addiction, and potentially dangerous interactions with other medication.
Risk Factors for Opioid Abuse and Overdose
Healthcare providers mustcheck patients who take opioids. If a doctor or medical professional does not take reasonable steps to ensure patient safety, he or she could be held accountable for abuse or overdose.
According to the CDC, any person who takes opioids is at risk for overdose. Some people are more vulnerable than others, including:
- Patients age 65 and older.
- People with sleep apnea, impaired kidney or liver functions, and other medical conditions.
- Patients who take more than the recommended dose or are inconsistent with dosage.
- People who combine opioids with alcohol and other drugs, both prescribed and illegal.
When to Consider Legal Action for Medical Malpractice
The law firm of Newsome | Melton specializes in helping catastrophically injured clients and their families. We work on a contingency fee basis. You do not pay attorney fees unless we recover compensation.
If a family member was injured, disabled, or passed away because of a medical provider’s negligence, you could be entitled to compensation. Sometimes, opioid abuse or overdose is related to an underlying medical problem. There may be more than one person or party who was negligent. This negligence might be in the form of:
- Inaccurate diagnosis of an underlying condition that needed pain management
- Pharmacy error in filling prescriptions
- Incorrect administration of opioid in a hospital or other facility
- Failure to watch patients for symptoms of abuse or addiction
- Incorrect prescription of opioids based on a patient’s health condition, weight, age, and other factors
We Can Pursue Compensation for You
For 20 years, Newsome | Melton has recovered more than $584 million in compensation for injured and disabled clients. We have seen how medical negligence creates enormous physical, mental, and financial losses.
If a medical professional or facility did not protect you or a loved one from the dangerous consequences of opioids, we can help. Our medical malpractice lawyers will evaluate your case for free. We can determine if you qualify for compensation for damages that include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Medical therapy and/or equipment
- Skilled nursing or caregivers
- Reduced or lost earning ability
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Wrongful death
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