Avoiding opioid addiction must become a national priority. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), more than 130 people die each day from opioid-related drug overdoses. Many of these tragedies begin with a valid prescription for a legitimate medical need but end with abuse and overuse. HHS reports that overdoses involving opioids killed more than 47,000 people in 2017, and 36% of those deaths involved prescription opioids.
Commonly prescribed opioids include:
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
Because these drugs are widely prescribed, patients need to be proactive to prevent addiction. There are several steps can be followed to prevent addiction and overdose:
- Take medicines exactly as prescribed. Patients should never stop or change a medication dosing without first consulting with a doctor or pharmacist.
- Avoid hoarding prescription medications. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, pain killers were among the prescriptions that were most often retained after the patient stopped using them. Keeping opioid medications allows easy access by family or friends — access that can form the beginning of addiction.
- Look for opioid-alternatives, when possible. For some patients, alternative medications such as Ibuprofin or Acetaminophen can help alleviate acute pain. For chronic pain, prescription medication alternatives — massage, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture — may provide safer pain relief.
- Following injury or surgery, patients should be careful to determine when a pain medication is no longer needed. Asking these questions may be helpful:
- Are my symptoms impairing my overall function?
- Is there anything I can do — exercise or stretching, for example–to better alleviate my symptoms, without using pain medication?
- Am I taking the lowest possible dose to relieve my symptoms while avoiding bad side effects?
If you have a friend or loved one you suspect might be developing an addiction to opioid pain medications, it’s important to recognize the classic signs, including:
- Running out of a prescription prior to the refill date
- Claiming that prescription medication has been lost to obtain additional medications
- Obtaining medications from multiple prescribing physicians
- Requesting a specific painkiller by name
- Visiting the emergency department in between scheduled doctor’s appointments to obtain more of the drug
- Using other people’s pain medication
We continue to investigate and pursue claims where families have been shattered by addiction and overdose. Please contact us if your loved one has suffered from opioid injury.