Addiction to prescription opioids and pain medications is a serious problem for patients recovering from orthopedic injuries. Despite the potential harm, orthopedic surgeons are accused of over-prescribing these drugs and exposing patients to greater risk for abuse. Depending on the patient and the circumstances, doctors who engage in such activities may be subject to medical malpractice claims.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than two million Americans suffer from prescription drug addiction, and accidental overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Many people don’t know that, because of their chemical similarities, opioids can have the same risk of addiction as heroin. Evidence suggests that people who start become dependent on pain killers like codeine, morphine, and oxycontin may go in search of prescriptions from unsuspecting doctors or can eventually graduate to such illegal drugs.
A recent report published by the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS subscription required) warns that orthopedic surgeons may be contributing to the problem. According to the study, orthopedic surgeons were the third-highest prescribers of opioid pain medication after primary care physicians and internists.
There is a good reason for orthopedic surgeons to be using opioids for pain management. Broken bones and joint fractures can be very painful, and according to the study’s co-author Dr. Brent J. Morris, “Orthopedic injuries… are often treated with an opioid pain medication during the initial recovery period.”
But that doesn’t mean that opioids should be the go-to solution for pain management after these injuries, especially in light of numerous non-opioid treatment options including over-the-counter medications and post-surgical nerve blocks – alternatives that don’t subject the patient to dangerous and sometimes fatal consequences prescription drug abuse.
When a physician knew or should have known that prescribing opioids and pain medications would lead a patient to develop a harmful addiction, that doctor must be held accountable for his or her professional negligence. If this has happened to you or someone you love, please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Litigation Group today to discuss your case – the law gives you a limited amount of time to pursue your right to compensation.