Opiate Overdose and Physician Malpractice

Opiates are prescribed regularly by physicians in all medical specialities for pain.  Patients frequently request opiates from their physicians when they are in pain.  Recent studies show a trend of increasing prescriptions.  Opiates, when taken in excess, or when they are taken on a regular basis, create addiction, by causing tolerance, that phenomenon where increasing doses of the medication are necessary to ameliorate the pain.  Opiate addiction increases the risk of overdose and death.  Opiate-related overdose and death has increased dramatically over the past few years, and now surpasses deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.  Physicans may be in violation of acceptable standards of practice by excessive prescribing and poor pain management practices.  The following study compares the use and abuse of opiate pain relievers by State.


The epidemic of prescription drug overdoses in the United States has worsened over the last decade, and by 2008, drug overdose deaths (36,450) were approaching the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes (39,973), the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Parallel trends in deaths and OPR sales between 1999 and 2008, combined with continuing upward trends in ED visits,[4] OPR abuse treatment admissions,[14] and OPR sales after 2008 suggest that the death rate also has increased since 2008. Preliminary 2009 death data are consistent with such an increase.[15] These increases occurred despite numerous warnings and recommendations over the past decade for voluntary education of providers about more cautious use of OPR.[16]

Differences in OPR overdose mortality by race/ethnicity match the pattern for medical and nonmedical use of OPR, with the lowest rates for medical and nonmedical use among Asians and blacks and the highest rates among American Indians/Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites.[4,17] Differences in OPR overdose mortality by race and ethnicity cannot




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