America’s Opioid Epidemic
In 2016 alone, health care providers wrote more than 289 million prescriptions for opioids, enough for every adult in the United States to have more than one bottle of pills. According to national studies, in 2014 almost 2 million Americans were addicted to opioids, and from 1999-2015 the United States Center for Disease Control Reports that more than 183,000 died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
Each day the calamity caused by prescription opioids grows worse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a research arm of the National Institute of Health, estimates that for 2017, 71,600 deaths will ultimately be attributable to drug overdose, most caused by prescription opioid medications— the second year in a row that more lives were lost to drugs than were lost by the U.S. during the entire Vietnam War— and the number continues to climb. The news is filled with heartbreaking stories about how the nation’s opioid drug epidemic continues to shatter lives and devastate families, at a quickening pace.
How Did We Get to This Point?
Beginning in the 1990’s, the growing emphasis on pain management along with aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical manufacturers of prescription opioids (Like Subsys) helped to spark an epidemic of usage and addiction.
These drugs were originally prescribed for end of life pain relief, during cancer treatment or for immediate post-surgical pain. Thanks to very aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical manufacturers, doctors began prescribing these medications for pain after modest physical trauma resulting from car accidents and sports injuries, and for back and arthritis pain. As prescriptions increased, so did overdose and addiction rates. That is because opioids are addictive.
The NIDA cites data showing that around a quarter of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up misusing them, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, those who become addicted to opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to other illicit opioid drugs.
How Opioids Affect the Brain
Opioid drugs bind to receptors in the nervous system and the brain, blocking or reducing feelings of pain and releasing the chemical dopamine, which causes feelings of pleasure. The brain creates a lasting record of these good feelings called “chemical associations,” which can drive the user to seek out more of the drug. Over time, in many users, the compulsion to use opioid drugs extends beyond the pursuit of pain relief and into dependence and addiction.
The Devastating Toll
Addiction can wreck every aspect of existence for innocent victims and their families. Job loss and resulting economic instability can lead to financial ruin and broken families. Pregnant women who become addicted may deliver babies who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition that causes tremors, seizures and other frightening symptoms. Addiction can be accompanied by mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia and bipolar and anxiety disorders. Among addicted users who transition to illicit opioid drugs, the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C is common due to needle usage.
Counting the Cost
The consequences of addiction, overdoses and death due to prescription opioids can include:
- Wage loss and other financial losses
- Cost of treatment programs and other medical care
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Physical, mental, and emotional pain and anguish
- Lost productivity
- Funeral expenses
Governments are Suing, What About You?
State, County and Municipal governments across the nation are filing lawsuits to seek to hold accountable prescription drug manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and providers of prescription opioids liable for the damages they have suffered. The Law Office of Richard Schechter, P.C. is part of teams that have been hired by some governments to pursue these claims.
But it is not only governments who have been harmed. Those who have become addicted are also victims of this aggressive marketing campaign that changed opioids from an infrequently prescribed medication to a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Richard Schechter believes that the damages individuals have suffered are just as important as those suffered by cities and counties.
What are Your Options?
If you or a loved one are the victim of an overdose, addiction or other serious complication, caused by prescription opioid pain medications, don’t let another day go by before you seek legal advice. You may be entitled to financial compensation, and you need to know your rights. Contact the Law Office of Richard Schechter, P.C. Richard Schechter and his experienced legal staff will sit down with you for a no-cost consultation and help you to explore your options. They understand what it takes to stand toe-to-toe against large pharmaceutical companies, wholesalers and distributors to get the relief you deserve, so that healing can begin for you and your family.