Anyone who has experienced acute pain that is very intense or chronic pain that persists for days or even weeks understands how debilitating pain sensations can become. They can affect everything from appetite and sleep to work performance and interpersonal relationships.
When people have severe pain or pain that doesn’t go away, they will usually turn to their physician to seek help. Their doctor can potentially prescribe them medication to help them manage their symptoms. Modern narcotic pain relievers are more affordable and also more powerful than traditional opiate medications. However, they pose a major risk of both addiction and abuse.
In some cases, doctors may contribute to someone’s medical decline by over-prescribing narcotic pain relievers. What are the two main methods of over-prescribing that can lead to addiction and substance abuse by patients with pain issues?
Prescribing too strong of a drug or too high of a dose
Not all narcotic pain relievers have the same impact on the human body. There are blends that combine opioids with analgesics typically available over the counter. There are also synthetic opioids available in very powerful doses. Doctors should base what they prescribe to a patient on their reported symptoms and their physical condition. Their age, sex and weight are among the multiple factors that determine what type of pain relief someone requires and how high the dose should be. Providing too strong of a drug or too high of a dose can lead to someone becoming dependent on their medication.
Prescribing too many pills or refills
Doctors often want a prescription to fully resolve someone’s symptoms and to see them through their recovery. They might therefore prescribe an entire month’s worth of medication at once or give someone a prescription with multiple refills available so that they don’t have to return to the doctor’s office repeatedly before their symptoms resolved. Unfortunately, when it comes to narcotic pain relievers, that approach may be too permissive and could result in someone using too much of the medication or even diverting it to the unregulated market. In addition to having inappropriate prescribing practices, doctors may also fail their patients by not helping them taper off of the medication by reducing their dose at the end of their treatment.
Pursuing a medical malpractice claim against a physician who has over-prescribed narcotics can be an appropriate response for affected patients or their family members under certain circumstances.