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Pain Medication Overdose in the Hospital

October 26, 2020

Opioids are a class of drugs that interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells to alleviate pain. Many patients are prescribed these medications to help relieve chronic or long-term pain they have after surgeries or accidents.

However, prescription opioids come with serious risks that include overdoses and death.

What are the Types of Prescription Opioids?

There are a lot of different types of opioids that physicians can prescribe to their patients. These highly addictive painkillers include Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Dilaudid, Codeine, Morphine, Meperidine, Methadone, and Hydrocodone. Some of these are known by their brand names: Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Demerol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of patients with non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnosis are prescribed opioids. Primary care physicians write half of these pain medication prescriptions. The breakdown for which opioids are prescribed is 49% for pain medicine, 37% for surgery, and 36% for physical medicine or rehabilitation.

Many Michiganders Have Been Injured or Have Died from Pain Medication Overdose

An overdose is an excessive or dangerous dose of a drug, which can be toxic or lethal. Common symptoms linked to an overdose include the loss of consciousness, coma, and breathing that’s shallow, slowed, or has stopped.

From 1999 to 2018, more than 232,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses involving to prescription opioids. Remarkably, overdose deaths with prescription opioids were more than four times higher in 2018 than in 1999. The CDC says that in 2018, an average of 41 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. That’s almost 15,000 deaths.

Opioid overdose deaths in Michigan have increased 10 times what they were in 2000. And in 2018, Michigan physicians wrote 62.7 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons… that’s significantly more than the average U.S. rate of 51.4.

What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)/Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS)?

It’s important for pregnant women to be aware of this growing issue.

NAS is a group of conditions that occurs when a baby withdraws from certain drugs he or she is exposed to in the womb before birth, and NOWS is caused by opioids. When a woman takes opioids during pregnancy, the drugs can pass through the placenta and cause serious problems for the baby. In fact, even if a woman uses an opioid exactly as her OB/GYN says, it can still cause NAS in the baby. NAS makes the baby at an increased risk of low birthweight, jaundice, and hospitalization in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth.

In 2016, the national incidence rate of NAS/NOWS was seven cases per 1,000 hospital births. Research showed that the highest rates were reported among American Indian/Alaska Native (15.9 per 1,000 births) and White Non-Hispanic (10.5 per 1,000 births) individuals.

Moreover, the incidence rate of NAS/NOWS in Michigan in 2017 was 8.0 cases per 1,000 hospital births, according to the most recent available data.

What Can Happen with an Overdose from Prescription Drugs?

If a person is given too high of a dose of prescription opioids, it will slow down and stop his or her ability to breathe, meaning the flow of oxygen to the brain ceases.

Without urgent medical treatment, an individual can experience a traumatic brain injury or die. An overdose from prescription drugs can be fatal or have long-term negative impacts on the patient’s health including brain damage, damage to internal organs, seizures, and death.

Can Physician or Healthcare Provider Error Result in Overdose?

Yes. In some cases, physicians make dreadful and sometimes fatal mistakes that cause serious harm or the death to their patients. Most of the time, this is in the hospital setting where a healthcare provider gives too much pain medication, or does not properly monitor a patient on pain medication. Common hospital overdoses are a result of a healthcare provider who:

  • Prescribed too much of the pain medication;
  • Prescribed or administered the wrong dose;
  • Failed to monitor the patient after administering the prescription pain medication; or
  • Prescribed a medication that’s dangerous to the patient because of his or her medical history or other drugs they’re currently taking.

Also, the hospital can be found liable for staff who improperly prescribe and administer prescription pain medication after surgery or during an emergency room visit.

Plus, mistakes are made at hospital pharmacies, and a pharmacist can be held liable if the wrong drug or dosage was given, or other errors were made when filling the prescription for the patient.

Contact a Michigan Pain Medication Overdose Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or someone you know has recently experienced a pain medication overdose, and facts suggest that it may be medical negligence resulting in injury or death, it’s critical you speak with an experienced and knowledgeable medical negligence attorney immediately to protect your interests or those of your loved one.

Buchanan Firm retains medical professionals who are available to immediately investigate your claim to determine if the pain medication overdose was caused by medical negligence. Buchanan Firm’s team has Michigan medical malpractice attorneys, doctors, nurses, and paralegals to assist you in this difficult time.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.