When used properly, prescription opioids can treat ailments such as severe pain, coughing, and diarrhea. When these drugs are misused, however, the ramifications can be life-changing. The long-term effects of opioid abuse include addiction, damage to many of the body’s critical systems, and—in severe cases—death.
Opioid Abuse and Addiction
The continued misuse of opioids can lead to addiction, a severe substance abuse disorder (SUD) that can result in:
- Chemical changes in the brain
- Significant and diverse health problems
- Difficulty meeting the responsibilities of daily life
- Dependence on continued opioid misuse
It can be extremely difficult for a person who is addicted to opioids to stop using the drug because of the severe withdrawal symptoms that typically develop when they attempt to do so. These can begin just hours after the person’s last dose and can include anything from muscle spasms and internal cramping to vomiting, diarrhea, and insomnia.
Effects of Opioid Abuse on Your Health
Because opioids bind to receptors in many different organs, opioid abuse can have a profound impact on many different aspects of your health. Studies have shown that “opioid therapy can adversely affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and central nervous systems.”
Hypoxia and Opioid Abuse
Although opioids relieve pain in the short term, the long-term effects of opioid use include a slowed breathing rate that can make it difficult for the brain to receive the oxygen it needs to function correctly. This can result in hypoxia, which can have effects such as coma, irreversible brain damage, and death.
Symptoms of an Opioid Overdose
Opioid abuse can also lead to accidental overdoses, which can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms of an opioid overdose are:
- Shallow breathing
- Choking sounds
- Loss of consciousness
- Cold, pale skin
If you suspect someone may be suffering from an opioid overdose, call 9-1-1 for help right away.
Warning Signs of Opioid Abuse
It can be difficult to know if a loved one is abusing opioids. Some warning signs of opioid abuse to look for include:
- Taking more of the drug than intended, either by taking too much of a dose or by taking the intended amount too often.
- Taking the drug despite a lack of pain.
- Mood swings or changes in sleep patterns.
- Stocking up on more of the drug than is needed to complete the prescribed course of treatment.
If a loved one is acting in any of the above ways, talk to their doctor or healthcare professional as soon as possible. If their doctor does not take action to investigate your suspicions, you may be eligible to pursue a medical malpractice claim against them.
Opioid Abuse Can Be a Sign of Medical Malpractice
When a doctor or other healthcare professional prescribes opioids to manage a patient’s pain, they must take reasonable steps to ensure the patient’s safety during and after the recommended course of treatment.
The prescribing doctor may be liable for your injuries, losses, and other expenses stemming from opioid abuse if they:
- Prescribed a dosage that is too strong for the patient’s age, weight, and tolerance.
- Prescribed opioids to a patient who is at risk of addiction.
- Failed to prescribe a non-narcotic pain management solution that would work equally well for the patient’s needs.
- Failed to watch the patient for signs of opioid abuse, misuse, and addiction.
- Failed to consider other factors, such as the patient’s medical history or the interactions between the opioids and the patient’s other medications.
- Inaccurately diagnosed the underlying condition that requires pain management.
Even if an opioid overdose doesn’t lead to death, you can still file for medical malpractice. You can hold a negligent doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider liable for opioid abuse injuries as soon as they occur. Talk to a medical malpractice lawyer to learn more about the options that may be available to you.
Call a Medical Malpractice Lawyer for More Information
If you or a loved one are suffering from the effects of opioid abuse, a medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help.
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