The Opioid Crisis That Kills Thousands of Americans Each Year

America is currently in the grips of a widespread opioid addiction crisis that is believed to have begun in the 90s but has spiked significantly in recent years. Based on 2015 statistics and information collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 33,000 Americans lose their lives each year due to an opioid addiction related health condition, which most commonly manifests as an opioid overdose that throws the user into cardiac arrest. This mortality rates means that around 90 Americans are dying each day due to opioid addiction. Another 2 million or so a year will struggle with opioid and/or heroin addiction without having a fatal overdose.

Types of opioids that are often related to opioid deaths include:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone

The American opioid crisis has become so massive, addressing and eliminating it is not just a health concern but also an economic issue. When all the financial consequences of opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths in America are calculated, the CDC believes impact is nearly $80 billion a year. With so many lives on the line and so much harm done to the country’s economy, a solution must be found. However, in order to fix a problem, it must first be understood.

The Origin of America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis

While many instances of opioid-related death are caused by illegally manufactured or illegally obtained opioids, the truth is that a noticeable percentage of Americans with opioid addiction problems began and continue using opioids due to an official prescription from a physician. Indeed, the country’s doctors were intentionally sold on the “safeness” and “non-addictive” nature of opioids by big pharmaceutical companies in the 90s. This spreading of half-truths by drug manufacturers about opioid medications has played a significant, if not instrumental role, in the rapid growth of the addiction rate.

Quick percentages about the American opioid addiction crisis:

  • ~25%: The number of patients who will use prescription opioids in a way that is divergent from the prescription or doctor’s orders.
  • ~10%: The number of patients with an opioid prescription who will eventually become addicted to opioids or painkillers.
  • ~5%: The number of patients with an opioid prescription who will later try illegal heroin.
  • ~80%: The number of heroin users who used a prescription opioid before ever using heroin.

Many doctors and treating physicians are no longer comfortable with prescribing opioid medications but must due to a lack of other options. Drug manufacturers and distributors have not made reasonable efforts to provide hospital groups and clinics with alternatives to opioids, or to educate physicians about the serious health conditions that can occur due to opioid addiction. This refusal on behalf of pharmaceutical companies to try to improve the situation with better medicine or better addiction risk awareness may be linked to a want to maximize profit and minimize spending, or simply due to professional negligence. In any situation, most of the liability for the opioid crisis has been laid directly at the feet of drug manufacturers and the distributors working with them, not physicians.

Government Efforts to Curb the Opioid Crisis

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the parent organization of the NIH, has been making strides to combat the opioid crisis. In particular, it has backed legislation that would make it easier for people to seek addiction rehabilitation treatment without worry of criminal consequences. Similarly, emergency responders are being encouraged to carry emergency medications that can reverse opioid overdose symptoms and, in some states, are not required to report to the police the presence of illegal opioids in a patient’s system after resuscitation.

The NIH has also made an effort to work alongside large pharmaceutical companies in both the promotion of responsible opioid prescription use and the development of new painkillers with significantly reduced addictive properties. Future research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other laboratories could also lead to new medicines that effectively, safely, and immediately reverse the damage caused by an opioid overdose. If the development of these medicines are successful, it would allow physicians to choose alternative prescriptions when a painkiller is necessary, rather than being forced to lean on dangerous drugs produced by pharmaceutical giants.

Legal Intervention to Seek Compensation for Opioid Harm

While the government is making its own motions to control and stop the opioid crisis, the responsibility ultimately falls on everyone. People who know of someone struggling with opioid addiction should consider reaching out and offering help, even if that is just directing someone to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline. Perhaps more importantly, those who have been harmed by an opioid addiction need to know whether or not they can file a lawsuit against a drug manufacturer for creating a defective drug and marketing it to doctors. Sometimes the only way to get a large corporation to change its ways is holding it financially accountable for any and all wrongdoing it has caused.

At Casey Law Offices, S.C., our defective drug team is adamant about doing the right thing and standing up for our clients, no matter the size of the opposition. If you believe you might have a valid claim to file against a pharmaceutical company or distributor for causing your opioid addiction, please do not hesitate to contact our team and request a free consultation. With our legal assistance and representation, backed by decades of representing injury victims, you may be able to receive maximum compensation for your pain and suffering, lost wages, as well as medical costs related to your addiction and recovery. Call (414) 272-5564.


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