Understanding Our National Opioid Epidemic

Understanding Our National Opioid EpidemicWhen most people think of “opiates,” dangerous narcotics like heroin likely come to mind. However, over the last few years, a new kind of legal opiate has been claiming the lives of thousands of Americans all over the country: opioid painkillers. Below, we take a closer look at this disturbing trend and what we can do to help end it in your own state.

What Is an Opioid?

An opioid is a powerful painkiller derived from the same poppy plant that heroin is. Essentially, these drugs block pain signals from reaching the brain while also increasing dopamine levels, creating a “high” in a patient.

Initially, these drugs were reserved for patients experiencing severe pain from serious, life-threatening conditions, but in 1996, OxyContin was developed and marketed as less addictive– making it an explosively popular prescription throughout the country. Unfortunately, many of the patients who are legally prescribed these drugs develop a dependence on them which can quickly spiral out of control.
Other drugs considered opioids include:
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone)
  • Percocet (oxycodone)
  • Kadian (morphine)
  • Avinza (morphine)
  • Codeine
Recently, the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl has been in headlines due to the death of pop icon Prince. Prince passed away due to an accidental overdose of the drug, which is known to be more than 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Why Is Addiction Such a Problem?

While many advocates and lawmakers have pushed for new legislation to limit the marketing and prevalence of opioid prescriptions, investigations have shown that the pharmaceutical industry has fought against this reform. A report from the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press revealed that these companies have spent more than $880 million on political contributions and lobbyists to counter legislation that would potentially reduce their opioid profits.

Meanwhile, here are some numbers behind this epidemic:
  • Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled.
  • Every day, 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for opioid abuse.
  • In 2014, opioid sales reached $1.98 billion.
  • In 2014, 14,000 people died of opioid abuse.

What Can I Do?

Many states are making efforts to better regulate opioids, including creating patient registries, which would prevent people from a practice known as “doctor shopping.” For more information on opioid addiction and what your state is doing to combat this worsening epidemic, visit our newsletter here.

The Greenville personal injury lawyers at Christian & Christian have recovered millions of dollars in relief for peoples and families who have been wronged by others, including pharmaceutical companies. If you believe you have a claim, our dedicated team of advocates is ready to hear your story.
Use our online form to request a free case evaluation today.

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