Prescription painkillers help patients deal with incredible pain. Unfortunately, these opioids are naturally addictive, and patients often have a hard time weaning off these drugs. In extreme cases, doctor-approved drug use can lead to dependency, overdose, and even death. Complete withdrawal can also be fatal; indeed, these patients and their physicians must carefully balance prescription consumption and be prepared to cease using these powerful chemicals.
Unfortunately, this is only one part of the drug problem in America. When this process becomes too expensive or individuals do not receive the help they need, the consequences can be devastating. Far too many individuals simply cannot afford the costs or long-term suffering associated with painkillers. And for many, the solution is a cheaper, stronger fix they can find on the streets.
Drug Problems in America
The drug problem in America (and the litigation that may be possible) essentially involves two parties – licensed and illegal providers. Though West Virginia and the rest of the nation are taking action to keep both groups accountable by reducing the supply of unnecessary prescription drugs, it is a problem that warrants significant attention.
Furthermore, opioid prescription pills (even when taken correctly) can easily lead to painkiller abuse – which could open the door to harder drugs. If obtaining prescription painkillers is simply too challenging or too expensive, some patients turn to buying them on the street; some people go on to harder drugs, like heroin. Street drugs, even prescription medications bought on the street (which can be imitations) are not monitored the way prescription opioids are. Overdose is a pervasive problem with these substances, causing 34 deaths per 100,000 people in West Virginia, more than twice the national average.
Outside of illegal prescriptions and drug deals, there is also a problem in the rehab industry. As those in recovery from any controlled substance seek treatment, they may run into a lack of necessary prescription and opioid addiction options. In this case, patients often look for other means to control their pain. Even the solutions that are provided to them, like methadone or buprenorphine, may lead to bigger problems.
Who Could Be Liable in Situations like This?
If a person dies from an illegally acquired drug overdose or a doctor prescribes the wrong amount of medication in a nursing home, the patient’s family may wonder about a wrongful death claim. Though this is an area that is still being explored, there is some precedence. For example, generic drugs manufacturers cannot be held liable in a personal injury or wrongful death suit. The following parties, however, may be accountable for a wrongful death:
- A drug dealer
- A doctor
- A rehab clinic
- Nursing homes
These parties all present the potential for opiate abuse. For example, in a recent Baltimore dispute, a doctor allegedly issued prescriptions for more than 320,000 oxycodone pills – a highly addictive and often abused narcotic. This would be fine through proper channels, but federal prosecutors claimed 1,000 cash-paying customers received one of these illicit prescriptions. Currently, four people have pleaded guilty in this unfolding case.
Prosecuting Drug Dealers
In the Baltimore example, the line between drug dealer and doctor may turn out to be a little grayer than people think. The truth, however, is that such cases are easier to prosecute than those involving street-level drug dealers. Medical professionals are held to higher standards and an amateur’s actions that may be considered negligence are simply reckless when performed by a doctor or care provider.
Due to the difficulty of drug-related personal injury claims, only a qualified West Virginia wrongful death lawyer who personally reviews your case can give you sound advice. For more information, contact the expert team at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC. We have comprehensive experience in personal injury law, and to provide the best counsel possible, we stay up to date on developments involving wrongful death and drug use in West Virginia.