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The Opioid Epidemic in Utah
Wrona DuBois, P.L.L.C.
(435) 649-2525

The Deseret News recently reported on the the tragic deaths of two Park City teenagers from a synthetic opioid called “Pink.” The introduction of this synthetic opiate highlights a growing epidemic of the use and abuse of these powerful drugs throughout Utah.

As KSL reported earlier this year, however, ”

illegal drugs aren’t the largest problem in Utah’s opioid struggles, and that’s what makes finding solutions so puzzling. Even legal opioids have created powerful lessons for Utah law enforcement and emergency responders that are seeing the problem firsthand.”

Sometimes patients suffer from chronic pain due to injuries suffered in car accidents, work injuries, or other ailments.  For these patients, doctors dispense powerful analgesic drugs, commonly known as “painkillers.”  Analgesic drugs are frequently used to relieve pain. Some analgesics, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, are relatively mild and are available over the counter.

Other analgesics, however, are powerful narcotics, and are available only with a prescription. Some common prescription analgesics include morphine and codeine, which are naturally occurring opiates; hydrocodone (Vicodin and Lortab) and oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), which are semi-synthetic opioids; and fully synthetic opioids, such as Fentanyl and Methadone. Under the close supervision of health care providers, these drugs can play an important part of a patient’s pain management regimen.

Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause serious side effects, from nausea and constipation to respiratory arrest and even wrongful death. Additionally, due to their narcotic nature, there is a high propensity for addiction and abuse. While some physicians closely monitor their patients’ drug regimens, others are over-prescribing these drugs, or improperly supervising a patient’s pain management plan.  While this is not always criminal activity, it is medical malpractice.  Negligent prescribing and monitoring of painkillers can cause serious personal injuries and give rise to medical malpractice claims.

Sometimes, careless physicians can transition patients from one narcotic painkiller to another, with disastrous consequences. For instance, Methadone is metabolized very slowly, and has a half-life of 15-60 hours. Additionally, it is fat soluble, and can remain in your system longer than other drugs. Likewise, OxyContin, a popular brand of oxycodone, is formulated to be released over time (the name is an abbreviation of Oxycodone Continuous release). When a patient is taken off of a “slow” drug and transitioned to a fast acting, instant release version, overdose can easily occur. The results of overdose can include respiratory arrest, anoxic brain injuries, or even wrongful death.

If you or someone you know has been over-prescribed painkillers by a doctor, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer immediately. While there are many other factors involved with Utah’s opioid epidemic, holding negligent prescribers accountable can help.

Here are some additional resources available for people who may be struggling with opiate addiction:

Utah Narcotics Anonymous

Utah Department of Health: Prescription Drug Overdoses

Utah Department of Human Services: Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health



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