A Little Secret that Your Physician Might Not Tell You About the Most Dangerous (Legal) Drug on the Planet


The most powerful pain relievers are opioids. Oxycodone is often combined with acetaminophen. The brand name for this combination is Percocet. High dosages of acetaminophen, particularly when combined with opioids, can have serious health consequences.

In 2020, prescription opioids remained the most commonly misused medication in the United States. Opioids carry considerable potential risk. Opioid use is associated with increased risk for opioid use disorder, overdose, death, falls and myocardial infarction. Opioids can cause respiratory depression when combined with other medications.

Long-term prescription opioid use was found to be associated with increased risk of overdose and opioid misuse. Chronic pain typically lasts more than 3 months.

Opioids Do Not Improve Pain or Function with Long-Term Use

For many years, medications such as prescription opioids have been the mainstay to treat pain, despite very limited evidence to support their long-term benefits.

There is no evidence that opioids improve pain or function with long-term use. According to the 2016 Center for Disease Control (CDC) Opioid Prescribing Guidelines: “There is limited evidence of long-term effectiveness of opioids for chronic pain.” In the 2016 guidelines, the CDC states that evidence exists of the increased risk of serious harms (including opioid use disorder and overdose) with long-term opioid therapy.

Opioids should be served for severe, continuous pain on a short-term basis. Opioids should be used for the shortest duration possible and should not be considered first-line therapy for chronic pain. Non-opioid therapies are preferred for sub-acute and chronic pain and are at least as effective as opioids for many types of acute pain.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Opioids

Evaluation of the patient is critical to appropriate management. Did your doctor discuss the risks of opioids with you? Did your doctor consider non-pharmacologic treatment for pain relief? Did your doctor consider non-opioid medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) for pain relief?

Improvement in pain is reduced with longer duration of opioid therapy. There are non-pharmacologic treatments for chronic pain relief, including massage, acupuncture, and myofascial release.

Potential Liability of Physicians for Prescribing Opioids

Physicians face potential liability for prescribing opioids for long-term pain relief. To determine whether a physician violated the standard of care, these questions must be addressed:

  • Did your doctor attempt to use non-pharmacologic and non-opioid pharmacologic therapies?
  • Did your doctor have an exit strategy for opioid therapy?
  • Did your doctor provide an opioid tapering plan?
  • How did your doctor evaluate the functional benefit from the opioids?
  • Did your doctor consider consulting with a pain management specialist?
  • What were your doctor’s treatment goals for continued opioid therapy?
  • Did your doctor discuss with you only taking the amount of opioids prescribed?
  • Did your doctor involve you in the decision to continue opioid therapy?

If you have questions, our medical malpractice lawyer will be happy to speak with you. You can contact us today for more information.