DRUG & PAIN ADDICTION AFTER AUTO ACCIDENTS WHO's AT RISK?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Lawyers Mutual seminar. Lawyers Mutual is the leading malpractice insurer for attorneys in North Carolina. North Carolina attorneys are required to take yearly continuing education classes - one of which is substance abuse.

One of the discussion topics was led by the Life Center of Galax. This organization is a center to help people who have persistent addictions- alcohol, drugs or other abusive addictive behaviors, many of which come from pain medications received after a serious automobile accident and are legitimately prescribed drugs.

Liz Bearmer, the Regional Services Coordinator, led a long discussion on ways to help friends and clients who suffer such addictions.

The American Bar Association reports that 10 % of the U.S. population has problems with alcohol. 15% to 20% of lawyers battle the problem. This condition according to the Bar Association report is called the "High Jacked Brain." Distortions of cognitive and emotional functioning characterize additions.

Brain cells are not totally destroyed by addictions but they do create a temporary "black spot" on the brain. This condition on your brain still lets the liver function properly. Methamphetamine leaves a permanent black spot and these brain cells will not regenerate. Methamphetamine also causes strokes. The sad part for pregnant women taking Methamphetamine is that it results in newborn babies having strokes or seizures.

Biomedical treatment is available with methadone- a drug that blocks the reception in the brain that seeks the "fix" of one's addiction. When blocked, the drug cravings go away. Methadone is prescribed under the care of a pain specialist to help a person over-come harsh addiction.

Interestedly Hydrocodone is terribly addictive, but there are now substitute drugs available that perform the same function but do not have addictive characteristics. Hydrocodone is one of the primary pain relievers given to seriously injured individuals. You should ask your health care professional to suggest alternatives if you find yourself in an uncontrollable pain situation. Many of our terribly injured clients from automobile accidents or workers compensation cases find themselves being prescribed these high- powered pain pills and often from multiple physicians. Before the clients realize it, they have become addicts through no-fault of their own. Pain following accidents and surgeries must be carefully monitored by all health care providers working in tandem. One of the worst drugs to cause damage to the liver is Tylenol. It is so widely advertised that few people know of the potential damage. Many take Tylenol along with their prescription drugs.

For Attorneys, law enforcement officers and even friends, the way to spot addictive behaviors in people is to look for:

  • A gradual deterioration of hygiene/personal health
  • Distortions of the truth
  • Finances poorly managed when prior to drug use there was no problem.

More illegal and impaired drivers are on our highways and we are seeing more serious auto accidents. Many clients find themselves out of work for months with excruciating pain. At our firm we try to warn clients to ask hard questions of their doctors and help them get referrals to certified pain clinics for help with long-term chronic pain management from accidents. This must be a collaborative effort of patient, doctor and attorney to help reach maximum recovery.

Frances Knox is an attorney in the Charlotte office of Knox Law Center. The firm's website is www.knoxlawcenter.com. Opening soon is the newest office in Denver located at Hwy 16/73- Waterside Crossing. Frances Knox can be reached at 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll free) or at fknox@knoxlawcenter.com.