One in three opioid users affected by addiction or dependence, recent survey finds

by Eric Pearson

About one in three Americans who were given prescription opioid painkillers by their doctor for two months or longer report that they became addicted to or dependent on these drugs, according to a recent survey. The widespread prescription of opioid medications – combined with limited guidance on the proper use of these drugs by physicians – has helped contribute to the epidemic of opioid addiction and abuse in the U.S., the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation survey found.

Although nearly all of the patients who responded to the survey had been prescribed opioids from a doctor, most said that they received little guidance from their physician on the safe use of these drugs. More than 60% of patients reported that their doctor gave no advice on when to stop taking painkillers, and about 20% reported that they received too little information about the risk of addiction or other side effects.

U.S. physicians wrote about 240 million prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, and other opioid medications in 2014 – enough for every U.S. adult to have their own pill bottle. This widespread prescription of opioids by doctors – combined with limited information for patients about the safe use of these drugs – has helped fuel an epidemic of opioid deaths in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 2000, opioid overdoses have claimed the lives of about 180,000 Americans, including 30,000 deaths in 2015 alone. Opioid abuse has played a key role in rising death rates among middle-aged white Americans, and has contributed to the first drop in life expectancy for Americans in more than two decades.

Although many opioid users report that the drugs have helped them live a more productive life, many family members have raised concerns about the effect of these drugs on their loved ones. The Washington Post survey found that more than half of family members of opioid users suspect that their loved ones have become addicted to prescription painkillers. Many family members also report that opioids have damaged the physical or mental health, personal relationships, or finances of loved ones taking prescription painkillers.

Although the CDC has warned that opioid medications are not effective beyond 12 weeks of treatment, many patients are prescribed these drugs for much longer. About 5% of Americans report that they have used opioids for two months or more; roughly half of these patients said that they were prescribed opioids for two years or longer.

Most patients in the Washington Post survey reported that they began taking opioid medications after receiving a doctor’s prescription to treat pain from a chronic condition, surgery, or an injury. Although most patients said that they tried non-narcotic medications or alternative therapies to manage their pain, the majority said that these treatment methods were ineffective.

Many of the survey respondents also reported that they used opioid medications in combination with drugs for anxiety, depression or sleep, which can depress the central nervous system. The use of opioids in combination with other CNS-depressant drugs may place patients at risk of a combined drug overdose, which could be fatal.

Victims of Opioid Painkillers? You May Qualify to File a Claim.

Despite the efforts of federal health authorities to control the U.S. opioid epidemic, thousands of Americans are affected each year by abuse, addiction, and overdoses caused by prescription painkillers. This epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction has been fueled in part by the indiscriminate prescribing practices of some doctors, as well as the aggressive marketing of opioid medications by the pharmaceutical industry.

If you or a loved one have been affected by complications from opioid painkillers, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug or the doctor who prescribed it. The first step in taking legal action to protect your rights is to speak with an attorney who can advise you regarding your legal options and guide you through the process of filing a claim.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of patients and their loved ones who have been harmed by dangerous opioid medications or other prescription drugs. Our law firm has also filed lawsuits on behalf of consumers who have been harmed by dangerous medical devices, defective products, or other wrongdoing on the part of individuals or corporations. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has taken on some of the largest corporations in the world on behalf of our clients. Our firm believes that all Americans should have the right to professional, qualified legal counsel to ensure that their legal rights are fully protected in a court of law.

To learn more about filing an opioid painkiller lawsuits and for more information about whether you may qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free legal consultation. 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 to get started.