George Loucas discusses the increase of the opioid epidemic over the last 10 years. Mr. Loucas is the founder of Loucas Law, a medical malpractice firm that specializes in wrongful death cases involving prescription opiates.

Loucas Law’s first case was about 10 years ago. It involved a person who had taken too many prescription painkillers. “Their family doctor overprescribed for a period of at least 15 years,” George says. “It destroyed her entire family, and we ended up suing the doctor. She had become addicted. We won the case. From there, we were contacted by people who were not just addicted, but by… [families members of] people who had become addicted and died… it has progressed to the point that today, 80% of our practice is wrongful death cases, people who have died from drug overdoses—prescription opiate overdoses.”

Greg asks George how to tell if a doctor has overprescribed. “Be aware that these drugs are dangerous,” George says. “They’re dangerous by definition… they’re called controlled substances for a reason. If you take one extra blood pressure pill, you’ll be okay. If you take one of these prescription narcotics incorrectly, you will die. That’s called a narrow therapeutic index—meaning if you don’t take them correctly, you could die.”

George encourages anyone who is prescribed opiates to follow the old adage: “start low, and go slow.” He suggests questioning whether these powerful pain medications are really necessary to get through what is often just a few days of pain. He also suggests using less powerful medications.

George suggests that parents carefully consider whether they will expose an injured adolescent to prescription opiates. “Once the body is exposed to them,” he says, “every cell in the body, especially the brain, records the effect of these drugs on the body—if it’s pain, it makes me feel better. If it’s an emotional crisis, all of a sudden, the body wants to make that pain go away… the body is commanded to want pain pills to make the pain go away. That’s what a family needs to remember when they’re faced with being treated for pain.”

George gives some general guidelines for families to keep in mind when visiting physicians. When should an eyebrow go up over being prescribed opiates? George suggests that families familiarize themselves with Ohio’s overprescribing laws, which have been on the books since 1996. He also discusses the surprising gaps in medical law which still haven’t been addressed.