New York Times investigation sheds light on the personal cost of the U.S. opioid epidemic

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by Eric Pearson

A recent investigation published in the New York Times examines the stories of several Americans caught up in the opioid epidemic that has swept the country in recent years. Health official have called the opioid epidemic one of the worst public health crises in U.S. history. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an overdose from prescription opioid painkillers, nearly equaling the number killed by car accidents.

Health experts have blamed a number of factors for the alarming rise in the number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. over the last two decades. The aggressive marketing of opioid medications such as OxyContin and the increased willingness of doctors to prescribe powerful opioid medications to treat patients with mild or moderate pain are two factors commonly cited as caused of the opioid epidemic.

The New York Times investigation focused on the stories of Americans across the U.S. who have been affected by opioids:

  • A 24-year-old woman in Massachusetts struggled to break her addiction to heroin after years of abusing alcohol, fentanyl, and other drugs;
  • A 46-year-old woman from Iowa who was prescribed suboxone, a drug that eases opioid withdrawal symptoms, by her doctor in order to help overcome her addiction to Vicodin and morphine;
  • A 33-year-old California man struggling to overcome his addiction to heroin at a rehabilitation center in Los Angeles after years of drug abuse;
  • A former addict working in Seattle, Washington to help others who are struggling with opioid abuse or addiction to overcome their drug dependency;
  • Border patrol agents in Arizona working to stop smugglers from illegally importing heroin and other drugs from Mexico;
  • The mother of a heroin addict in in Utah struggling to help her 30 year-old son to break the cycle of imprisonment and drug rehabilitation caused by his drug addiction;
  • Medical examiners in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who performed nearly 300 autopsies last year for residents who died as a result of an opioid overdose.

Over the last year, federal health authorities have taken steps to help combat the epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction in the U.S. In March 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines about the prescription of opioid medications in order to help reduce the number of cases of addiction and overdoses caused by these drugs. In October, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it would lower its 2017 production quotas for opioid painkillers by 25% in order to reduce the supply of painkillers available in the U.S.

Despite these efforts, thousands of patients and their families are affected by abuse, addiction, and overdoses linked to opioid painkillers. In addition to the overdose risks caused by powerful opioid medications, patients who are prescribed painkillers in combination with other drugs that depress the central nervous system may be at risk of suffering a combined drug overdose. In September 2016, the FDA warned doctors about the dangers of prescribing opioids in combination with benzodiazepines such as Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam), sleeping pills (such as Ambien and Lunesta), tranquilizers, muscle relaxants such as Soma, or antipsychotic medications such as Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal, and Zyprexa.

Opioid Victims and Their Families Have Legal Rights

If a loved one has died from prescription opioid abuse due to the negligence of the prescribing doctor, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against the healthcare providers who improperly prescribed opioids and failed to provide appropriate care. The first step in making sure that you legal rights are protected is to speak with an attorney who has the experience in handling opioid painkiller litigation to handle your case from start to finish.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented many families whose loved ones died as a result of prescription painkillers. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that believe that, when opioids are improperly prescribed by a doctor or hospital, victims and their families deserve access to qualified legal counsel to represent their interests and ensure their rights are protected.

For more information about filing an opioids lawsuit and to find other whether you qualify to file a case, contact the attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions about your case to get started.