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Postsurgical Analgesics: How They Can Hurt and Kill

Sometimes worrying about the pain following surgery can be even more nerve-racking than undergoing the surgery itself. Pain-relief medications, also known as analgesics, can be vital to a patient's recovery after a surgical procedure and can make severe pain more bearable. Opioid medications such as morphine and Dilaudid (also called hydromorphone) are commonly prescribed postsurgical analgesics. While these drugs can greatly reduce pain symptoms during recovery, if taken incorrectly, they can seriously harm or even kill patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, about 100 people die from prescription drug overdoses every day and nearly three-quarters of those overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. Therefore, prescription drugs can be very dangerous, even those properly prescribed by physicians postsurgery.

Morphine and Dilaudid work by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and in the brain to reduce the patient's perception of, and emotional response to, pain. Both medications are available only by prescription and can be administered orally or intravenously. Dilaudid is about three to four times stronger than morphine.

Most individuals who use morphine or Dilaudid during recovery suffer only mild side effects such as constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. But sometimes, when the pain is unbearable, additional doses or stronger medication is necessary to control it. Unfortunately, the risk of harm is higher with stronger doses. For example, after a dose increase of morphine, the risk for severe, possibly fatal, breathing problems becomes more likely.

If you are recovering from a surgical procedure and have experienced complications as a result of taking morphine, Dilaudid, or any other prescription drug, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. An experienced West Virginia medical malpractice attorney can review your case and help protect your rights.

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