More Americans used opioid painkillers in the last year than tobacco products, a recent federal study has found. The results of the study, released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, highlight the continuing danger that the epidemic of opioid painkiller overprescription poses for U.S. patients.
According to the study, 37.8% of U.S. adults used prescription painkillers within the last year, compared to only 31.1% of adults who used tobacco products. Although the study is good news for health experts concerned about reducing Americans’ use of tobacco, the new data also highlights difficulties faced by officials trying to reduce the overprescription of opioid painkillers in the U.S.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study found that women were more likely to use opioid painkillers than men. Opioid use was highest among Americans without a college degree or a high school diploma. Opioid use was also more common among Americans who had been unemployed within the last year.
Health experts have criticized the lack of an aggressive response to the U.S. opioid epidemic. Dr. Richard Soper, head of the Center for Behavioral Wellness, says that while the federal government has taken aggressive action to reduce tobacco use, there has not been a similar effort to reduce the rate at which opioid medications are prescribed by doctors in the U.S.
Earlier this year, federal authorities took several steps designed to help combat the problem of opioid overprescription. In March, the Food and Drug Administration issued a black box warning for opioid medications designed to warn doctors and patients about the health risks of these drugs. In October, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced that it would lower its 2017 production quotas for opioid medications in order to reduce supplies of these drugs in the U.S.
Federal officials recently passed new rules designed to help combat opioid addiction. In July, the government unveiled new rules that will allow doctors to treat up to 275 patients with opioid addiction, up from the previous limit of 100 patients. Authorities hope that the new rules will allow doctors to help more patients struggling with addiction to painkillers to seek treatment. The federal government also announced that it will spend $94 million to help 124,000 new patients receive treatment for opioid addiction.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the toughest challenge in meeting the country’s opioid crisis may be in getting treatment to patients who want it. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy says that only about half of the estimated 2.2 million Americans suffering from opioid addiction currently have access to treatment. Murthy says that although the federal government has begun to take steps to address America’s prescription painkiller epidemic, the fruits of these efforts are only beginning to reach the general public.
The epidemic of opioid painkiller overdoses has been a leading contributor to the rise in prescription drug deaths in the U.S. over the last two decades. As sales of opioid medications has climbed, so too have the number of overdose deaths caused by these medications. The CDC has reported that since 2000, the number of fatal overdoses due to prescription painkillers has doubled in the U.S.
When a loved one suffers an overdose caused by prescription painkillers, the manufacturer of the drug – or the doctor or hospital who prescribed them – may be at fault. Some doctors prescribe opioid painkillers at excessive doses, or with other drugs that can cause potentially fatal drug interactions, putting the health – and even the lives – of patients at risk. The aggressive marketing of prescription painkillers by the pharmaceutical industry has also played a role in the rise of fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous clients who have been the victims of overdose or other complications caused by excessive painkiller prescriptions by doctors or hospitals. In fact, the attorneys at our law firm have handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch—a powerful opioid painkiller about 100 times more potent than morphine—than all other law firms in the country combined. Our firm has also filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of opioid victims and their families against opioid manufacturers and medical staff who inappropriately prescribe these drugs.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of complications from an opioid overdose, the doctor or hospital who prescribed these drugs or the drug company that manufactured them may be to blame. For more information about opioid painkiller lawsuits and to find out if you are eligible to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by completing our free case evaluation form located on the top of this page.