Opioid painkillers are extremely dangerous and addictive. Thousands of people die from accidental opioid overdoses every year. Many more lose their jobs, families, and finances.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are medications that are prescribed by doctors for the treatment of moderate-to-severe pain, coughing, and sometimes diarrhea. There are also illicit opioids like heroin or opium that are abused as street drugs. Here are some examples of opioids:
Over 40,000 Opioid Overdoses Per Year: CDC
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 42,000 Americans overdosed on opioids in 2016. The number of overdose injuries and deaths has risen so dramatically in the last few decades that the average life expectancy in the U.S. has actually dropped.
Ohio Judge Oversees 200+ Opioid Lawsuits
The epidemic of accidental opioid overdoses has led to over 200 lawsuits against drug-makers for aggressively marketing these highly-addictive medications, and downplaying the risk of overdosing. Many states have also filed class actions seeking reimbursement for the cost of managing the opioid crisis.
Judge Urges “Quick Settlements”
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, a federal judge in Ohio, is currently overseeing hundreds of opioid overdose lawsuits. He has urged drug-makers like Purdue Pharma to agree to quick settlements with states and individuals who have been harmed. Purdue Pharma is accused of failing to monitor suspiciously large orders of opioids, as well as downplaying the risk of overdosing.
Where Do Opioids Come From?
Opioids are narcotics that come from the opium poppy, Papaver soniferum. This plant has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. The milky sap is harvested by making razor-cuts in the poppy seed pod. The sap is dried and processed into a sticky black or brown tar called opium.
What Makes Opioids So Addictive?
Using opioids for more than a few days in a row will cause the body to develop a tolerance, which means that the body requires more opioids to achieve the same desirable effects. The person may also experience intense cravings to take higher doses of opioids. Over time, this can potentially spiral out of control and lead to addiction.
What is the Problem?
Overdoses commonly occur in people who are taking multiple medications that contain opioids. Overdoses are also more likely in people who mix opioids with other medications that depress the central nervous system, such as anti-anxiety or sleeping pills.
The symptoms of withdrawal from opioids are typically the opposite of what a person would experience when they are taking opioids. For example, a person in withdrawal may experience intense pain, irritability, insomnia, shivering, muscle aches, flu-like symptoms, and more. These symptoms can make it nearly impossible to quit.
Opioid Overdose Symptoms
- Blood pressure drops
- Mental confusion
- Extreme sleepiness
- Lethargy or sedation
- Skin feels cold and clammy
- Pupils of the eyes are pinpoints
- Breathing slows or stops
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
People who become psychologically and physically addicted to opioids are unable to stop without professional help. Treatment often involves an inpatient facility to go through withdrawal and weeks of intensive therapy sessions. Addiction is a lifelong recovery process and therapy sessions often continue for months or years afterward.
Consequences of Untreated Opioid Addiction
- Job loss
- Family loss
- Financial loss