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Most patients can’t abruptly stop taking opioid drugs

Opioid medications represent one of the most important advances in modern healthcare. The access to readily-available, powerful and affordable pain management options can improve the prognosis of many patients. Medical professionals typically understand the way that chronic pain can affect someone’s recovery from an injury or illness. They prescribe opioid medication to improve someone’s quality of life and aid in their overall recovery.

Doctors prescribing opioids generally are subject to oversight from state agencies. They have to conform to prescribing practices that limit how much medication they recommend to individual patients. After all, opioid medications are often the beginning point of someone’s addiction. Unfortunately, doctors do not always follow best practices in the weeks after recommending pain medication to a patient.

Improper oversight can harm patients

The reason that there are such strict controls regarding opioid medication is the potential for abuse and addiction. People can very easily develop dependencies on opioids that can put their long-term health at risk. Limiting how long a patient receives opioid medication is often necessary for their safety.

However, doctors should not just terminate a prescription, as the patient may have already developed a dependence on the medication. Instead, best practices for opioid prescribing include overseeing a patient’s termination of treatment.

The doctor needs to taper the patient off of opioids by slowly reducing their dose until they can cease using the medication to control their pain without any withdrawal symptoms. Factors ranging from heavy caseloads to a lack of insurance may complicate scenarios where treatment involves opioid medication.

Doctors who don’t follow up with their patients to ensure that they have stopped using opioid medications may fail to recognize the signs of opioid dependence. Even if the patient no longer has a valid prescription, they might be able to access similar medication or even illicit substances like heroin on the unregulated market.

Opioid addiction often begins with medical treatment and can have tragic consequences for the patient. Families who recognize that a substance abuse issue began with a prescription opioid could potentially hold a healthcare professional accountable for their negligent conduct. Failing to follow best practices and monitor a patient while ceasing treatment with an addictive substance can be a form of medical negligence.

When a doctor’s professional drug administration failures result in negative consequences for the patients in their care, they may be at risk of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Healthcare professionals who do more harm than good as a result of their substandard care may be held legal and financial accountable for the consequences of their actions.