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Is your doctor responsible for your addiction?

On Behalf of | Nov 18, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

The laws and regulations around opiates and other addictive prescription medications have changed significantly over the years. As medications have become stronger, their health risks as well as the chances of becoming dependent on them have increased. Millions of people have become addicted to opiates after being prescribed these drugs for pain relief. 

In the past, it wasn’t hard for people to find a doctor or “pill mill” run by a doctor where they could get as many prescription drugs as they needed as long as they had the money. Now there’s far more oversight than there used to be. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop some doctors from overprescribing addictive drugs or prescribing them to patients they don’t know who come in claiming to have a strained back or other painful condition. 

Most people who become addicted to opiates and their families look for the root cause of the problem. When did the addict first start using? As noted, it often begins with a perfectly legitimate prescription after surgery, dental work or an injury.

Signs that there was negligence

When can you hold a doctor liable for causing your addiction? That’s a very different question. To prove that a doctor was negligent, you would need to show that they breached their duty of care to their patient, and that the breach caused harm. For example:

  • Did they prescribe an unusually strong or large dosage?
  • Did they continue to prescribe it past the point where it should no longer have been necessary?
  • Did they start increasing rather than decreasing the dosage?
  • Did they fail to notice or ignore signs of addiction?

Some of these things will be documented in your medical records – assuming that you were seeing just one doctor. However, New Jersey doctors have an obligation to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database when they’re prescribing controlled substances to help prevent cases of “doctor shopping.”

Patients need to be honest with their doctors

Patients do have some responsibilities as well. For example, if you’re a recovering addict, you have an obligation to tell your doctor that if they recommend a highly addictive medication. There are often other options.

If you believe, however, that your doctor’s negligence caused your addiction, it’s worth finding out whether you have a valid claim. Getting experienced legal guidance is a good first step.