A new study conducted by researchers in Massachusetts has found that more than half of all patients in the United States who are hospitalized for non-surgical reasons are given powerful opioid painkiller drugs. In many cases, these patients receive large doses of these prescription painkillers, putting them at an increased risk of dependency, addiction, and overdose.Researchers in the study looked at patients who are treated in a hospital for medical conditions such as heart failure, pulmonary disease, pneumonia, or cancer. In 51% of all cases, researchers found that patients were given powerful painkillers such as fentanyl, morphine, or oxycodone.
Patients at hospitals where the highest number of opioid painkillers were prescribed were the most likely to suffer an overdose or other complications from these drugs. The study found that 43% of patients were treated with two or more painkillers, and about one-quarter were given at least 100 milligrams of morphine per day, what one expert called “a whopping dose.”
The overprescription of opioid painkillers has become a serious medical problem in recent years, helping to fuel an epidemic of overdoses that has made prescription drug fatalities the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Patients who are treated with two opioid painkillers at once may also be at risk of a combined drug overdose because of the way these drugs depress the central nervous system.
When doctors or hospitals prescribe opioid painkillers in excessive doses or in combination with other drugs, they may be putting the lives of their patients at risk. Individuals who have been the victim of an overdose caused by fentanyl, oxycontin, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone, or other opioid painkillers may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the doctor or hospital who prescribed these drugs.