Opioid Addiction: Balancing Patient Care And Rx Risks - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Opioid Addiction: Balancing Patient Care And Rx Risks


Government regulators and the media have focused attention in recent years on the widespread prescribing of opioid medications for patients experiencing pain due to injuries. One study reported 2,861 deaths in 2016 attributed to the use of opioids in Canada and a sharp rise in people seeking care in hospital emergency departments for opioid-related conditions. The federal governments in Canada and the United States have responded by declaring an opioid crisis attributed to high prescription rates in both countries. Individuals could have a claim for compensation against doctors who overprescribe pain relief medication.

Opioid medications

Opioids are drugs derived from the poppy plant that have proven effective for pain relief. They can also be produced in the laboratory. Fentanyl is an example of a synthetically produced substance that replicates the pain-relieving properties of naturally produced opioids.

The effectiveness of opioids in controlling severe or chronic pain makes them a popular treatment option. Some of the commonly prescribed opioid medications include:

  • Morphine, including Kadian and MS-Contin
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin

Opioids work by attaching to cells in the brain. The affected cells inhibit a person’s ability to perceive pain. Users may experience a feeling of euphoria, which could increase the potential for abuse of the drug.

Side effects of opioids

As effective as they are in the treatment of severe and chronic pain, there are side effects associated with opioid use, including:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea

Long-term use of opioid medications may cause a person to develop a tolerance to the drug and require higher dosages. Dependency and abuse may develop in patients using the drugs for extended periods.

Patients using opioids must only take them under the care and supervision of a doctor and must only take the amount prescribed for them. Adverse reactions may occur when opioid drugs are taken in combination with other drugs or with alcohol or when taken in higher doses than prescribed may result in symptoms ranging from extreme drowsiness to death.

Holding doctors accountable

An investigation of 84 doctors with higher than normal numbers of patients for whom they prescribed opioids resulted in disciplinary action against one of them and recommendations for remedial action regarding their prescribing practices for some of the others. Patients have another course of action they could take to hold doctors accountable when medication errors or their failure to monitor patient use of prescribed opioids.

Physicians can be held responsible for negligence through a medical malpractice claim when they fail to provide care to patients that are up to the standards expected of the profession. Failing to warn patients of the risks posed by opioids or not monitoring a patient’s progress while taking the medication could be considered an act of medical malpractice.

Ontario personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers

The personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience handling claims for compensation on behalf of  people suffering injuries through the negligence of others. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, speak to one of our lawyers to learn more about your rights and how to protect them. Call the Diamond and Diamond 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We have offices located throughout Ontario offering free consultations and case evaluations to injury victims and their families.

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