Compensation May Be Available for Opioid Addiction or Overdose

The opioid epidemic truly lives up to its name and its descriptions.  It is called “a public health emergency”, “a silent hurricane”, and “FDA’s biggest crisis”.

Opioids are moderate to strong narcotic pain medications, and millions of Americans are misusing them and becoming addicted.  Thousands of people die each year as a result of opioid misuse or addiction.  Why?

  1. Patients who are prescribed one of the many opioid drugs available are not always made aware of the potentially terrible consequences these drugs can have.
  2. By their nature, opioid drugs are addictive, and if prescription guidelines are not followed, the patient is at a much higher risk of dependency. 

The Startling Statistics

“The opioid epidemic claimed 64,000 lives last year – more than car accidents or guns.”  —  Forbes, December 2017

“Overdose is now the leading cause of death for those under 50.”  —  Financial Times, November 2017

“In 2015, 12.5 million people misused prescription opioids.”  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Kinds of Opioids

There are many types of opioid drugs.  WebMD lists the following generic and brand names of some of these medications:

  • Codeine (only available in generic form)
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora)
  • Hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
  • Hydrocodone / acetaminophen (Lorcet , Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
  • Meperdine (Demerol)
  • Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
  • Morphine (Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, Ora-Morph SR)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxecta, Roxicodone)
  • Oxycodone and Acetaminophen (Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet)
  • Oxycodone and Naloxone (Targiniq ER)

The Benefits and the Problems with Opioids

Opioid drugs have definite benefits for people who are in pain from a variety of issues ranging from an aching tooth to pain following surgery.  In the body, these drugs bind to opioid receptors in the brainstem, the spinal cord, and the limbic system.  In the brainstem and the spinal cord, opioids reduce the feelings of pain.  In the limbic system, opioids can create feelings of pleasure and relaxation.  When used correctly, these medications can provide much-needed relief for a patient suffering from a temporary illness or injury, as well as patients battling diseases like cancer or rheumatoid arthritis.

Problems develop with opioid use when patients are not adequately warned of the dangers of these medications, or they do not take the medications as they are prescribed.  If drugs are taken in too large a dose, patients can become very ill or even die.  If opioids are taken for more than a short period of time, patients can become addicted to the drug, suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking it. 

Patients who become addicted to opioids often go into a downward spiral, with some even moving on to more dangerous illicit drugs, such as heroine.  

Personal Stories

The following are a few of the personal stories published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  These stories are from individuals, or members of their families, who have suffered from the opioid epidemic:

  • A mother tells the story of her 20-year-old son who was in an automobile accident which resulted in him having back pain.  He was given prescription opioids, but his tolerance for them grew quickly and he went from doctor to doctor to get additional pills.  He started out with one pill a day and over time increased his intake to 25 pills per day.  His personality and his family life changed dramatically.  He was not successful at various treatment facilities, and after two years from the time of his accident, he died of an overdose at 22 years of age.
  • A senior in high school had surgery for a broken wrist he suffered while playing hockey.  After surgery, he was given an opioid pain medication, and when he had his wisdom teeth removed shortly thereafter, he was given another opioid prescription.  It only took three to six months for him to become addicted.  He realized the extent of his addiction when he went on a vacation and left his pills at home.  The magnitude of his withdrawal symptoms were terrifying.
  • A woman was prescribed opioid medication for her ongoing severe headaches.  Within one year, she became addicted and required higher and higher doses just to get the same effect of the drug.  She sought out four different doctors to write prescriptions for the drug, and in addition, she began buying pills on the street.  Eventually, she lost her family, her home, her career, and much of her savings.  She ultimately overcame her addiction, but she still suffers from residual health problems.

Who is to Blame for the Epidemic?

In many cases, individuals themselves are to blame for misusing their own prescription opioids, taking someone else’s prescription drugs, or buying drugs illegally.

For many other patients, the blame may be linked to doctors who prescribe unnecessary opioids, give patients too many opioids, do not describe the dangers associated with misuse, fail to obtain a patient’s adequate medical history and current prescription drug list, or do not monitor their patients closely enough after prescribing opioids.

Drug manufacturers and drug marketers may also be to blame for not providing sufficient warnings on their medications, or for over-marketing the virtues of the drug.

Pharmacists may be responsible for not paying attention to red flags such as those warning them that patients may be filling prescriptions too early, filling multiple prescriptions, or filling prescriptions from doctors who have been known to overprescribe opioids.

Your Legal Options

If you or a loved one have become a victim of the opioid epidemic, you already know the toll it has taken physically, emotionally and financially. You may have options for recovery. 

Call us at (888) 458-6825 or fill out our contact form to discuss your legal options.

The consultation is free and confidential.