Prescription painkillers such as methodone, oxycodone (brand name: OxyContin), and hydrocodone (brand name: Vicodin) are the most abused prescription drugs in the United States. The sale of prescription painkillers in the United States has more than tripled since 1999. Over 36,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2008, which included over 20,000 who died from prescription drug overdoses — just a few thousand short of the number of people who are killed each year in motor vehicle accidents. More people die from overdoses of prescription pain medications than from heroin and cocaine combined.
The overuse and misuse of painkillers in the United States is described as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people engage in what has become known as “doctor shopping,” which entails obtaining prescriptions for the same pain medications from multiple doctors. Those people who doctor shop either abuse the drugs they obtain themselves and/or provide (sell) them to other people who abuse the drugs. The “street” price of certain pain medications are very high when compared to the price paid at the pharmacy, which adds to the incentive to doctor shop.
It is estimated that doctor shopping costs health insurance between $10,000 and $15,000 per abuser per year. The total overall costs of painkiller abuse may be greater than $70 billion per year.
Some unscrupulous doctors and clinics do not follow the guidelines and legal requirements when dispensing prescriptions for painkiller medications; some operate what have been described as “pill mills” where the drugs flow more freely than they should. Some states are known as being havens for pill mills, even to the extent that people from neighboring states organize bus trips to the pill mill states to obtain their prescription medications.
As a recent example, on February 14, 2012, an Illinois doctor was sentenced to four life sentences in prison by a federal judge for four drug overdose deaths of his patients. In addition, the doctor received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years for 13 other drug-related offenses. The federal prosecutors alleged that the doctor dispensed more of the painkiller medication oxycodone between 2003 and 2005 than any other doctor in the United States. They also alleged that the doctor prescribed and dispensed millions of doses of diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, and carisoprodol for cash payments at various locations in central and southern Ohio.
If you or a family member dies from a drug overdose, does it really matter if the drug used was a legally prescribed painkiller or a illegal street drug? Is a drug death somehow more acceptable if it was caused by a legal painkiller as opposed to a drug such as heroin or cocaine? Does it matter if the drug used has a legitimate medical purpose (such as painkillers) or no redeeming legitimate use, such as heroin?
If you are unable to work or function and your family is destroyed by your abuse of legal painkillers or outlawed street drugs, does it matter which drug you abused? Is there any difference in the costs to society of drug addiction, drug abuse, and drug treatment if the drugs were prescribed and obtained from a pharmacy or were bought from a shadowy drug dealer in a back alley or in a crowded bar?
The bottom line: a drug addict is a drug addict whether hooked on legal painkillers or on illegal street drugs.
If you became addicted to painkillers or any other drugs prescribed by a medical provider, you may have a legitimate claim if the medical provider did not properly prescribe the drugs or did not properly monitor your use of the drugs or reaction to the drugs. Medical malpractice attorneys may be able to investigate your possible claim for you.
Visit our website by clicking here or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to represent you and bring a medical malpractice claim on your behalf.
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