America's opioid addiction epidemic is one of the worst emergencies we have faced in modern history. The crisis has affected almost every aspect of our society. Hospitals are constantly treating overdose victims. Law enforcement officers are being exposed to ultra-powerful opioids while conducting searches and arrests. Families are being forced to watch their loved ones die or spiral further into addiction.
Our blog seeks to help you gain a better understanding of this crisis and what your options might be if you are affected. The following points may help introduce you to basic facts about America's opioid crisis.
- Opioids kill thousands in the US each year: Opioids are synthetic pain-relief drugs that may or may not be prescribed by doctors. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that opioids were responsible for a majority of the 64,000 overdose deaths during 2016.
- Some opioids are tens or even thousands of times stronger than morphine: The CDC maintains that fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is also prescribed in the US. CDC statistics show that fentanyl and its analogues were responsible for most of the opioid overdose deaths during 2016. One of those analogues is carfentanil, which may be 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanil, which is sometimes mixed into heroin, was also used as a chemical weapon against Chechen rebels during the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis.
- The pharmaceutical and medical industries started the crisis: Pharmaceutical companies launched deceptive marketing campaigns that downplayed the risk of addiction associated with opioid drugs. Doctors were also lobbied by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe opioids for less serious, long-term health conditions. Prior to this point in history, opioids were only prescribed for extremely serious health emergencies.
- Millions of Americans are prescribed opioid medications: Statistics published by the CDC show there were 214,881,622 opioid prescriptions filled nationwide during 2016. As prescriptions for opioids increased, so did the rates of addiction.
- Addiction is a health issue: Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease. It is a disease that changes the structure of the brain and how it works. Once a person becomes addicted to a drug, including an opioid, there is always a risk that they will relapse. Relapse can even occur after decades of sobriety. For instance, famous actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was clean from drugs and alcohol for 23 years before he relapsed and died from a fatal heroin overdose.
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We have only scratched the surface of why America's opioid problem has morphed into a national emergency. More can be said about the role pharmaceutical companies played in creating America's opioid crisis. Future blogs will also inform you on how states and personal injury attorneys are fighting back against these companies.
For future blog updates on America's opioid crisis, we encourage you to follow the Louisiana personal injury lawyers at Martzell, Bickford & Centola on Facebook and Twitter.