Opiate medication revolutionized the medical world more than a century ago. Synthetic opioids that use the same biological processes as naturally derived opiates have created a second revolution in modern pain management practices.
Modern opioid drugs are more powerful than opiates and are often cheaper and easier to manufacture than traditional opiates. However, with more options for narcotic pain control comes the increased risk of addiction among patients taking opioid medications. Too many medical professionals ignore the opioid epidemic when prescribing pain medication, possibly opening themselves up to allegations of medical malpractice.
Patients often need support when ending opioid consumption
Opioids and opiates are among the most addictive medications currently available. They pose a high risk of abuse and cause physical dependence. Patients can experience severe, painful symptoms when they suddenly stop taking prescribed opioids.
Doctors should be aware of the addictive risks of opioid painkillers and how even the best-intentioned patients can struggle while taking pain pills. A few weeks may be all it takes for someone to become dependent. Ending a pain management regimen abruptly could lead to withdrawal symptoms, pushing people to act in erratic manners or to seek out medication on the black market. Some people even turn to heroin.
Tapering patients off of a medication that creates physical dependence is an important process. Slowly reducing the dosage can help people successfully stop taking opioid painkillers without withdrawal or medical risk. Doctors can help patients by prescribing lower dosages and fewer pills and monitoring patients as they reduce the intake of their pain medication.
Doctors who overprescribe and ignore addiction may have some responsibility
Patients trust that their doctors will recommend treatments that will benefit them, not set them up for a lifetime of addiction. Pain management is necessary in many circumstances, but physicians should be responsible about how they prescribe opioids and about ensuring that their patients can safely cease taking the medication.
When a doctor over-prescribed or fails to monitor patients transitioning off of narcotic pain management, their negligence could constitute medical malpractice in some cases. Understanding what a doctor should do when helping someone handle severe pain can help patients and their families determine if they have the grounds to take legal action.