New Jersey Prescription Opioid Injury Lawyers

The opioid epidemic in the United States continues to wreak havoc on unsuspecting victims. In 2019, 70,630 people died from drug overdoses, and there were 10.1 million misused prescription opioids in that past year.[1] People often turn to opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine, to help them deal with moderate to severe pain.[2] A doctor may prescribe them and may not effectively monitor the effects of the patient’s opioid use mid to long-term, or 90 days after the date of injury.[3] Or they may prescribe them long-term with the intent of seeing symptom improvement, “even in the absence of functional improvements.”[4] The result is a chemical dependency on powerful drugs that can adversely affect the organs in the human body, including:

  • The digestive system
  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Reproductive health
  • Increasing the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly
  • Increasing the risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.[5]

Doctors

Many workers’ compensation doctors see petitioners who become injured during their employment. These doctors have a duty to help recover the petitioner, and if able, get them back to work. Unfortunately, even though doctors are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining and/or improving a person’s health, not all live up to this important expectation. For victims of medical malpractice, there is legal remedy.

In a study, general practitioners and rheumatologists were more likely to prescribe long-term opioids than “surgeons, neurologists, or physiatrists.”[6] Doctors can be targets of medical malpractice by willing suitors who are seeking compensation on behalf of themselves or a loved one due to prescription opioid injury or death. Some doctors may refuse to provide medical documents pertaining to the victim’s treatment unless mandated to by a court order.

Addiction

Opioids block pain signals and release significant amounts of dopamine throughout the body. This has the effect of “making the user want to repeat the experience.”[7] Long-term use can make people develop a tolerance to the drug, which means they must take higher dosages to receive the same effect. Stopping the drug altogether can cause withdrawal effects for mid to long-term users, which can range from something like a caffeine dependency to life-threatening, in the case of heroin. Eventually, opioid misuse can cause hypoxia, a condition that is characterized by too little oxygen reaching the brain. This can cause a coma, permanent brain damage, or death.[8]

Overdose

An opioid overdose can happen for several reasons, including:

  • Taking an extra dose or taking it too often
  • Mixing an opioid with other medicines, illegal drugs, or alcohol.
  • Taking an opioid that was not prescribed for that person, such as children.[9]

Opioid overdoses can cause seizures or permanent brain damage. This can leave the victim paralyzed or without the ability to speak. In worst case scenarios, the result is death.[10]

Workers’ Compensation Industry

The workers’ compensation industry has its own unique data regarding opioid prescriptions. Some interesting facts are as follows:

  • The mining (including oil and gas) and construction industries had the highest opioid dispensing rates. This was followed by agriculture, forestry, fishing, and public safety.
  • Workers employed in smaller companies had higher opioid dispensing rates.
  • Older workers had higher opioid dispensing rates.
  • Rural areas had higher opioid dispensing rates.
  • Areas with low rates of health insurance had higher opioid dispensing rates than areas with low rates of health insurance.
  • Fractures and carpal tunnel syndrome had the highest opioid dispensing rates, followed by neurologic spine pain.[11]

Precautions

Although in general, the amount of opioids per workers’ compensation claim, and the number of workers’ compensation claims with opioid prescriptions has been reduced in most states, it is still a significant problem that requires the attention of the public.

It is sufficient to say that drug use use requires a degree of personal responsibility. For example, a victim of a car accident might experience neck pain in the long-term. They may opt not to go through physical therapy, but instead consume Advil, or Ibuprofen, long-term to relieve pain. This drug, through frequent use, can lead to decreased blood flow to the kidneys, which could lead to kidney injury.[12]

Consistent use of any drug should require a thorough degree of research. Almost anyone can ask around or research online the negative effects or risks of a drug one is using. For accurate information, you may opt for frequent blood tests and have those results sent to you. Speak with multiple doctors and get their input on your condition throughout drug use, whether it be through advice and consultations, blood tests, or physical examinations. Having an investigative nature is helpful when it comes to your personal health and well-being, as it is something you want to protect and maintain throughout your life.

For opioids, the burden of doing the things described above is even greater. Substance abuse disorder has the potential to alter and destroy lives. It is especially difficult for friends and family members who know a loved one addicted to opioids. It would be helpful if they carry around or have at their disposal Naloxone, or Narcan, “a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose” by binding to opioid receptors.[13] It comes in the form of an easy-to-use nasal spray. The result of having this medicine in the immediacy of an emergency or crisis can mean life or death for the victim of an overdose.

Let Livingston DiMarzio Help You

The opioid crisis has devastated families for years. Opioid treatment can be controversial if not for cancer use. People may have a hard time getting off it or may simply become dependent on its effects to treat pain. One of the tools to combating this is educating communities about the risks of opioid use.

If you or a loved one were the victim of an opioid-related injury or death from a workers’ compensation doctor, including an overdose, our team at Livingston DiMarzio may be able to help. Call one of our experienced prescription opioid injury lawyers at no cost to you at (973) 718-5173 or fill out a case form on our website and we will contact you.

[1] United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, October 27). What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic? HHS.gov. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html.

[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, November 16). Naloxone DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/naloxone.

[3] O’Hara, N. N., Pollak, A. N., & Welsh, C. J. (2018, October 26). Persistent opioid use among injured workers’ compensation claimants. JAMA Network Open. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2709720.

[4] Turk, D. C., Brody, M. C., & Okifuji, A. E. (1994). Physicians’ attitudes and practices regarding the long-term prescribing of opioids for non-cancer pain. PubMed.gov. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7892017/.

[5] Mosel, S., & Lautieri, A. (2021, August 17). Long-Term Health Effects of Opioid Use & Addiction. Adcare.com. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://adcare.com/opioids/long-term-use/.

[6] Turk, D. C., Brody, M. C., & Okifuji, A. E. (1994). Physicians’ attitudes and practices regarding the long-term prescribing of opioids for non-cancer pain. PubMed.gov. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7892017/.

[7] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, July 1). Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids.

[8] Ibid.

[9] U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, June 3). Opioid Overdose. MedlinePlus. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/opioidoverdose.html.

[10] UPMC. (2020, September 1). What Happens to the Body During Opioid Overdose. Minutes Matter. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://minutesmatter.upmc.com/what-happens-to-the-body-during-opioid-overdose/.

[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, January 30). Opioids in the Workplace: Data. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/opioids/data.html.

[12] Orange, S. (2019, November 22). Are NSAIDS Like Ibuprofen Bad for My Liver and Kidneys? GoodRx. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.goodrx.com/classes/nsaids/nsaids-ibuprofen-bad-liver-kidneys.

[13] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, November 16). Naloxone DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/naloxone.

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.

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