If you were to ask a doctor about the most important medical advances in recent decades, they will probably reference a cutting-edge procedure or medication in their field of expertise. However, if you push them from the most important general advances, improvements in pain management will undoubtedly make the list of the top medical advances.
Uncontrolled pain can decrease a patient’s ability to recover from a condition. It can cause shock, which can be fatal on its own. Pain can also affect someone’s neurology and cognitive functions. Being able to control pain means not only providing a better quality of life but a better chance at recovering from an illness or severe injury.
Doctors can even use pain medication in some cases to induce a temporary coma in those struggling with severe infections or intense injuries. Sadly, mistakes in pain medication administration in the hospital can have fatal consequences.
Opiates and opioids can slow the heart and respiration
Opiates, powerful pain relievers derived from opium poppies, and opioids, even more powerful synthetic versions of these drugs, are among the most potent pain medications available. When doctors must administer intravenous pain relief, they will usually select a drug from one of these two families.
They will base the dosage on someone’s previous history, weight, age and gender, as well as their established tolerance for this particular medication. Unfortunately, the risk involved in taking opiate and opioid pain medication increases with the dose.
These drugs can slow the heart rate and suppress breathing, which is beneficial in small amounts because it allows someone to rest deeply. In higher doses, these effects could be fatal on their own.
Dosage errors happen all the time in the hospital
Although you might think that you are safer receiving a dangerous medication in the hospital than taking it on your own, the risk for an overdose doesn’t go away just because a medical professional is the one giving you the drug.
Research on intravenous drug administration errors shows that improper timing, meaning they give the drug too early or too late, is a common mistake. Giving too much of a drug is also a frequent error. Both administering pain medication too soon and giving too high of a dose could potentially result in death.