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Opioid Painkiller Side Effects

Prescription painkillers—also known as opioids—such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), fentanyl (Duragesic), oxycodone (OxyContin), methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and morphine may cause severe and potentially deadly side effects—even when taken by patients as prescribed. More than 15,000 prescription painkiller deaths occurred in 2008 alone—more than all deaths due to cocaine and heroin overdose combined.

Opioid Overdoses

The most serious risk associated with the use of opioid painkillers is overdose. When a patient receives too much of a painkiller drug—either because they were prescribed too much by a doctor or because they were not given proper instructions on how to use the medicine—they may overdose on the drug and lapse into respiratory depression. If left untreated, patients who develop respiratory depression from painkillers may die due to a lack of oxygen from shallow breathing.


Patients who have been taking opioid painkillers for an extended period may develop a tolerance to their medication. This could cause them to start taking too much of their medication in order to achieve the same effect—putting them at risk of respiratory depression and death.

Drugs such as fentanyl and methadone should only be prescribed to patients who are already using opioids. Doctors must be very careful to prescribe only the amount of these medications that is equivalent to the potency of the opioids the patient was using leading up to the change in medication. Also, these drugs should not be added to other long acting opioids, but should only be substituted for them.


Some patients who are prescribed narcotic painkillers by their doctor may become addicted to these drugs. Patients who are given prescriptions that are too large or stronger than necessary may be at a higher risk of becoming addicted to painkillers.

Other Side Effects

Patients who use prescription painkillers may experience other side effects. Some patients may develop a physical dependency for painkillers that may cause them to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking the drugs. Opioid users may also experience severe constipation that may require treatment with other medications.

Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of Opioid Overdose Victims

When doctors fail to properly prescribe opioid painkillers or to properly monitor their patients to limit the risk of painkiller side effects, serious health consequences can result. Patients who were seriously injured after taking prescription painkillers may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the doctor who prescribed these drugs or the company that manufactured them. Similarly, those who have lost a loved one due to opioid overdose may likewise be eligible to seek just compensation.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are among the nationwide leaders in filing opioid painkiller lawsuits. If you or a loved one suffered an overdose or other side effects from painkillers, you may qualify to file a case. For a free legal consultation, please contact our law firm at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out the free online case evaluation form located on this page.