Deaths and injuries due to opioid abuse in America has reached epidemic proportions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates more than 115 people die every day after overdosing on opioids in the United States. It is a serious national crisis that not only costs American lives, it costs taxpayers $78.5 billion a year in healthcare costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A person’s addiction to opioids can start with a doctor’s prescription. Opioids are so highly addictive that legitimate prescriptions to manage pain can lead to a lifetime of abuse and ultimately death. Too many people in America today are dying of opioid addiction, and too many families are being ripped apart due to this epidemic.
The Opioid Injury and Deaths Lawyers of Schmidt National Law Group work tirelessly to get the justice and compensation families deserve when they lose a loved one to opioids. We are filing lawsuits on behalf of individuals and their loved ones who have been affected by the opioid epidemic, including injuries and deaths related to opioids.
If you or a loved one were prescribed an opioid medication to treat pain for a prolonged period of time, you may qualify for an Opioid Injury or Death Lawsuit. These lawsuits claim consumer fraud, product liability, negligence, or wrongful death against the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture and sell the opioids that millions of people nationwide are now using.
Opioid medications are highly addictive and even a legitimate prescription can be misused and abused.
Call the experienced lawyers at Schmidt National Law Group today at 800-631-5656 to see if have an opioid injury or death claim.
Opioids are a class of drugs that include both legal and illegal varieties. The illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine, are all examples of opioids.
Opioids are found in nature in the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Opioid medications can be natural and made from the plant or synthetic and made partially or completely by people in a lab.
While some opioids like heroin are illegal, others can be prescribed by a doctor to reduce pain. They typically come in pill form and are prescribed to treat acute and chronic pain. No matter what form they take, opioids are highly addictive and can easily be misused and abused, even under the care of a doctor.
Opioid drugs interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. They produce a sense of euphoria in addition to providing pain relief, which is why they are so easy for users to misuse. When used regularly to deal with pain, users can quickly become dependent and addicted, putting them at greater risk for overdose and death.
An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone if it is given right away. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first nasal spray version of naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan. Law enforcement officers around the country have started to carry this drug with them as they respond to more and more overdose incidents.
Although some areas of the country have seen improvement when it comes to the number of opioid prescriptions and misuse among teens, overdose deaths relating to heroin have been increasing since 2007. Heroin is a cheaper alternative to prescription opioids, and is sometimes easier to get since doctors have begun cracking down on unnecessary opioid prescriptions.
There are many types of opioids on the market that are used to treat different conditions. The following are some of the most common types of opioid brands as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The opioid oxycodone, and its various branded versions, is typically used to treat severe pain after surgery. Hydrocodone is used to treat severe pain that lasts for a short amount of time (acute), and diphenoxylate is used to treat severe pain that lasts for a long time (chronic).
Natural opioids, sometimes called opiates, are derived from the opium poppy plant. These include morphine, codeine, and thebaine.
Semi-synthetic opioids are created in labs from natural opioids and include hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone. The illegal drug heroin is also a semi-synthetic opioid made from morphine.
Fully synthetic opioids are completely man-made in a lab and include fentanyl, pethidine, levorphanol, methadone, tramadol, and dextropropoxyphene.
Opioids are manufactured by some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world and rake in billions of dollars in sales each year these businesses.
With so many people dying of opioid overdoses–more than 42,000 people in 2016–some of these companies have vowed to stop promoting opioids to doctors in an effort to curb the opioid epidemic. These decisions, however, come in the wake of thousands of lawsuits accusing the companies of putting profits over human health.
One of the companies promising to cut its opioid sales force and stop promoting to doctors is Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of the popular opioid OxyContin. The company made the announcement in February 2018, following a barrage of lawsuits filed on behalf of victims of the opioid crisis and their families.
Other opioid manufacturers besides Purdue include Endo Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
It is easy for people to misuse, abuse, and overdose on opioids because they are highly addictive. The CDC estimates that 11.5 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2016 and that 2.1 million people have an opioid use disorder.
The CDC also estimated that 116 people died every day of an opioid-related overdose in 2016, totalling about 42,249 deaths that year. Of those deaths, more than 17,000 were attributed to commonly prescribed opioids.
In 2016, the CDC said about 948,000 people used heroin and about 170,000 more people used heroin for the first time. Heroin is a cheaper alternative to prescription opioids and more readily available. Prescription opioid users who become addicted may find it difficult to get prescriptions from their doctors and will turn to heroin as an alternative. Nearly 15,500 deaths were related to heroin overdoses in 2016.
These numbers point to the potential danger of opioids and the serious nature of the opioid epidemic in the United States. Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, regulating agencies, and law enforcement must work together to curb the number of people who are dependant on opioids and stop opioid-related deaths.
Doctors started prescribing opioid pain relievers at greater rates in the 1990s, after pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to the drugs. This led to widespread misuse of opioids, before it became clear that these drugs were highly addictive, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Opioid overdose rates started to increase as more and more prescriptions were written. In 2016, more than 42,000 people died of an opioid-related drug overdose, up from more than 33,000 the year before.
According to NIDA, between 21 and 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them and between eight and 12 percent of patients develop an opioid use disorder. An estimated four to six percent of patients who misuse prescription opioids eventually transition to heroin and about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
The opioid crisis is now a full-blown epidemic and a public health crisis. Not only are people abusing and overdosing on opioids, the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (when newborns go through withdrawals) is on the rise due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy. Infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C are also on the rise because there is an increase in injection drug use.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health are working together to help stop the opioid crisis. The two agencies are focusing their efforts on five major priorities, including:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also working to fight the opioid crisis. The agency established an action plan to reassess its approach to opioid medications. After all, every prescription opioid drug was approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA.
The FDA’s action plan includes expanding use of its advisory committees, developing warnings and safety information for opioid labeling, strengthening postmarket requirements, updating the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy program, expanding access to abuse-deterrent formulations to discourage abuse, supporting better treatment, and reassessing the risk-benefit profile approval framework for opioid use.
Doctors are also being more cautious about prescribing opioids to their patients unless it is necessary and the potential benefits of opioid use outweigh the potential risks of opioid misuse. Doctors may choose to prescribe other pain relievers other than opioids to their patients, including non-drug treatments like exercise, meditation, acupuncture, and mindfulness.
Pharmaceutical companies also have a significant role to play in stopping the opioid epidemic, including being responsible about the information they give to doctor and patients. It is essential for companies like Purdue and Johnson & Johnson to commit to not incentivizing doctors to prescribe their opioid medications.
Unfortunately, it may take thousands more lawsuit and tens of thousands more deaths before Big Pharma commits to helping curb the opioid crisis.
The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on families all across the United States, whose loved ones have become addicted to opioid medications and their lives have been taken over by the drugs.
If you or loved one are addicted to opioids, it is imperative that you seek the proper help to fight your addiction. Your life is at stake. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a free, confidential helpline to call if you are suffering from opioid addiction.
The helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), provides 24-hour-a-day information in English and Spanish to get referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community based organizations.
Finding good legal help can also help you get your life back. A lawyer who specializes in opioid injuries and deaths can help you fight for justice and get the compensation you deserve. Call the lawyers at Schmidt National Law Group today at 800-631-5656 to see if you or your loved one qualifies for an Opioid Injury or Deaths Lawsuit. The calls is free and there is no obligation.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids: Brief Description.” Updated February 12, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” Updated February 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Prescription Pain Medications (Opioids).” Updated March 2017. Retrieved from: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-pain-medications-opioids
Huffington Post. “OxyContin Drugmakers Vows to Stop Promoting Opioids to Doctors.” By Nina Golgowski. Published February 11, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oxycontin-maker-to-stop-opioid-promotions_us_5a8078afe4b044b3821e6cb7?utm_hp_ref=opioid-epidemic
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “About the Epidemic: The U.S. Opioid Epidemic.” Updated December 21, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “FDA Opioids Action Plan.” Updated July 7, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm484714.htm
NPR. “Pain Management Program Offers An Alternative to Opioids.” By John Daley. Updated December 29, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/29/567525861/pain-management-clinic-offers-an-alternative-to-opioids