Why Is There an Opioid Epidemic and When Did It Start?
The term opioid refers to a group of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, morphine, and codeine, and illegal drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl. Besides the ability to effectively numb pain, all opioids have something else in common—they are highly addictive.
Even responsible individuals with no history of drug abuse are at risk of becoming addicted to prescription opioids. There are certain groups of people for whom the risk is even greater. These include anyone age 65 and over, and those with a history of alcoholism or drug abuse.
Opioid addiction has truly reached epidemic proportions. To combat this deadly, and growing problem, we must work together to find a solution. Doctors and other health care professionals are key players on the road to recovery. When their failure to take reasonable measures to prevent addiction and opioid overdose results in injury or death, they should be held accountable.
How We Got Here
According to the CDC, nearly 400,000 people suffered a fatal overdose involving opioids between 1999 and 2017. These deaths included both prescription and illegal opioids. The epidemic itself began in the 1990s and can be followed in three very distinct waves.
In the 1990s, the prescribing of opioids to treat chronic pain saw a significant increase. Pharmaceutical companies assured physicians that the risk of addiction was low. The communities in which prescribing was most liberal also happened to experience the most abuse and diversion (people with prescriptions giving their opioids to others, illegally).
The second wave began around 2010 when fatal heroin overdoses skyrocketed. Heroin abuse became indiscriminate, affecting both sexes, and all races, ages, and socioeconomic groups. Heroin-related deaths increased by 286 percent between 2002 and 2013. And here is the most shocking statistic of all—about 80 percent of people abusing heroin say they started by abusing prescription opioids.
The third wave began around 2013 with an increase in fatal overdoses of synthetic opioids. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, is linked to many of these deaths. More than 20,000 people overdosed on fentanyl or related drugs in 2016 alone. Fentanyl is often found in counterfeit pills, heroin, and cocaine.
Signs That Someone You Love Has an Opioid Addiction
If you suspect that a loved one is abusing prescription or illegal opioids, the list of signs and symptoms below may help shed some light on the issue. Behaviors and physical symptoms linked to opioid abuse include:
- Needle marks on the body
- Social withdrawal
- Flushed and/or itchy skin
- Behavioral changes
- Engaging in risky behaviors
For some people, overcoming an early dependence on opioids simply requires medical advice to discontinue the drug, and support of friends and family. For others, however, opioid addiction can be deadly.
Addiction or Overdose Due to Medical Negligence
If medical negligence contributed to your addiction or overdose, the health care professionals involved may be liable for any resulting damages. In some cases, opioids are the only way to manage severe pain in patients who have serious injuries or following a surgical procedure. However, opioids are too-frequently prescribed when non-narcotic alternatives could have been enough.
When a patient’s pain can only be treated with opioids, it is the responsibility of the physician to closely monitor that patient during the entirety of his/her treatment.
Your physician may have contributed to your opioid addiction or if he/she failed to:
- Consider non-narcotic alternatives.
- Explain the risks.
- Closely monitor requests for prescription refills.
- Assess longer-term opioid needs.
- Seek alternative treatment for chronic pain sufferers.
How We Can Help
If medical negligence is responsible for your opioid addiction or overdose, you have a right to seek damages for your injuries. At Newsome Melton, we believe that medical professionals should be accountable when their negligence causes harm. We will seek the maximum compensation available. You may be able to recover damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Income loss, both current and future
- Wrongful death
Newsome Melton Can Help
Opioid addiction is a serious problem in this country, and doctors play a major role in its resolution. Although most doctors are doing their part to combat patient addiction to painkillers, there are others who are contributing to the problem. The legal team at Newsome Melton will fight tirelessly to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. You do not need to suffer in silence. Our compassionate, knowledgeable legal team is here for you. Call Newsome Melton at (877) 535-0537 today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.
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