What is the Opioid Epidemic?
Opioid addiction in the U.S. has reached “epidemic proportions, threatening not only public health but economic health and national security,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). More than 800 people die from opioid-related overdoses each week in the U.S., and many experts say this number will continue to climb for years before it peaks. But what caused this crisis, and how can we turn it around?
What Steps Have Been Taken to End the Crisis?
The U.S. government over the past several years has been increasing efforts to reduce both the foreign and domestic supply of opioids, limiting the number of prescriptions written for the drugs locally, and providing counternarcotics assistance to countries abroad. Meanwhile, government officials have attempted to reduce demand by focusing more on treatment and less on punishment. Victims of opioid abuse have also begun filing lawsuits in courts across the U.S., seeking to hold manufacturers and the phaemrcituval industry accountable for their part in the crisis.
Which Drugs are Contributing to the Epidemic?
Opioid medications — oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, etc. — are commonly prescribed to treat pain, while methadone is typically used for the treatment of opioid dependence. Doctors first started prescribing the drugs en masse during the 1990s for treating cancer patients and those who had undergone surgery, but since then physicians have increasingly dolled them out for chronic conditions, such as back or joint pain, despite concerns about their safety and effectiveness.
Is Heroin an Opioid?
No. Heroin is derived straight from the opium poppy, which makes it an opiate. Opioids are synthetically manufactured but bond to the same opiate receptor sites as heroin and morphine. Some law enforcement officials have labeled Fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50-100 times stronger than morphine — as “manufactured death” because of its cheap price and high potency.
How to Recognize an Opioid Overdose Before it Happens
It can be difficult to tell whether a person is just very high, or experiencing an overdose. If you’re having a hard time telling the difference, call 9-11 immediately — it could save someone’s life.
According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Unresponsive to outside stimulus
- Awake, but unable to talk
- Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic, or has stopped
- For lighter skinned people, the skin tone turns bluish purple, for darker skinned people, it turns grayish or ashen.
- Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise (“death rattle”)
- Body is very limp
- Face is very pale or clammy
- Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
- Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic, or not there at all
Opioid Death Rates
Overdose deaths associated with opioid drugs have increased 5-fold since 1999, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available), opioid overdoses killed more than 42,000 people, or more than 6 times the number of U.S. military service members killed in the in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The opioid mortality rate that year contributed to the 2nd straight yearly decline of life expectancy in the U.S.
Do I Have a Case?
Patients who were prescribed an opioid painkiller and suffered an overdose or addiction may qualify to participate in a lawsuit seeking compensation against the manufacturers of these drugs or the doctors who prescribed them. Opioid injuries and deaths are preventable tragedies, and if you or a loved one was harmed because of an opioid addiction, you should contact our lawyers today to learn more about your legal rights.
Why Our Firm is Not Filing a Class Action
Although we are a nationally recognized class action firm, the Pharmaceutical Liability Litigation Group at our law firm has decided against the filing of a class action suit in the opioid litigation, and are only filing individual claims on behalf of opioid users who overdosed, suffered a major injury, or died. We chose to hold off on filing a class action because in this type of litigation, they are often associated with higher attorneys’ fees, no say regarding the direction of the suit, and pennies on the dollar compared to an individual suit.
Do I Have an Opioid Class Action Lawsuit?
The Class Action Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in opioid lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new overdose injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Free Case Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one suffered an overdose from a prescription opioid drug, and were hospitalized or know someone who died from an opioid overdose, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.