Opioids are prescription narcotics possessing properties similar to opium and heroin. While opioids can ease pain, they also can create an addictive euphoric high in users.
With evidence that the opioid industry played a key role in causing the opioid epidemic through its alleged deceptive marketing of highly addictive prescription painkillers to treat common chronic pain conditions, state attorneys general, local governments and other public entities nationwide have championed investigations and litigation to seek accountability and remedies. The U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee also conducted its own investigation and released a report in February 2018 that stated it had found evidence suggesting the opioid industry paid millions of dollars to several third party patient advocacy groups in order to encourage “the advancement of opioids-friendly messaging.”
The manufacturers aggressively marketed the pills to doctors and patients through a campaign of distortion and misinformation—claiming that opioids were safe and effective for the treatment of chronic pain and a wide range of other conditions, and that addiction was rare. None of this was true.
Obscured from the marketing was the fact that prescription opioids are not much different than heroin—indeed on a molecular level, they are virtually indistinguishable. They are synthesized from the same plant, have similar molecular structures, and bind to the same receptors in the human brain. It is no wonder then that there is a straight line between prescription opioid abuse and heroin addiction.
Common Opiate Drugop
Purdue Pharma, Endo, Janssen and other drug manufacturers and distributors are facing dozens of civil actions currently pending in state and federal courts. The defendants in many suits manufacture market and sell prescription opioid pain medications, including brand-name drugs:
The number of opioid overdose deaths recorded in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, with prescription painkillers being the driving force behind the uptick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similar to the rise in overdoses, the amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies and medical practitioners, including drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, also nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, the CDC found. Despite the increase in readily available drugs, the amount of pain recorded by Americans has reportedly remained consistent.
When opioid painkillers are hard to come by, those who suffer from opioid dependency often turn to heroin as a comparable alternative. As a result, the increase in opioid dependency in the U.S. has also triggered an increase in heroin addiction, with three out of four new heroin users reporting using prescription opioids prior to heroin, according to the CDC.
Opioids accounted for more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, with the hardest hit statesbeing West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio and Rhode Island, the CDC reports. On Oct. 26, 2017, the U.S. declared the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency, allowing for the allocation of resources and services to combat the epidemic.
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