A record number of nearly 50,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2017, according to new estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said that the majority of the increase in painkiller overdoses between 2016 and 2017 was caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
According to the CDC estimates, more than 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2017. About 49,060 of these deaths involved opioid painkillers. Of these nearly 50,000 deaths, nearly 30,000 were caused by fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, an increase of more than 9,000 deaths from the previous year.
The CDC estimates also found that deaths from prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone were roughly equal to the number of fatal overdoses in 2016. Taken together, these data suggest that many patients are switching from prescription to synthetic opioids in response to the federal government’s crackdown on the supply of prescription painkillers in the U.S.
The nationwide increase in the number of deaths linked to synthetic opioids and other painkillers was not evenly distributed across the entire country. In areas of New England – where the epidemic of fentanyl overdoses arrived earlier and treatment plans have been implemented – deaths from opioid painkillers actually fell.
Health experts say that opioid supply is the dominant factor in whether or not specific regions in the U.S. are hard-hit by the opioid crisis. In areas of the country where fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are widely available, the number of opioid overdoses has skyrocketed; in parts of the U.S. where these drugs are harder to come by – or where treatment programs have been successfully implemented – the number of overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids is lower.
But overall, the nationwide opioid epidemic has grown worse since the start of the Trump administration. Although President Trump declared the opioid crisis to be a nationwide emergency in 2017, deaths from opioid painkillers have climbed substantially since he took office in January 2017.
In addition to studying the number of deaths in the U.S. caused by opioid painkillers, federal authorities also studied the number of Americans who are struggling with opioid addiction, abuse, and other disorders. Estimates based on a nationwide telephone survey found that about 2.1 million patients in the U.S. suffer from opioid disorders. However, regulators cautioned that these estimates may be an undercount, since some addicts do not have phones and others may be reluctant to report their problems with opioids due to social stigmas.
CDC officials say that there are signs for optimism that the increase in deaths from the opioid epidemic will not continue. Monthly figures on opioid overdose deaths show that fatalities from these drugs may have leveled-off during the final months of 2017. State governments have also begun to implement treatment programs similar to the ones that have been successful in reducing opioid deaths in New England.
Congress is also debating a number of bills in response to the nationwide opioid crisis. Although the majority of these bills have focused on reducing the number of new opioid users by restricting the supply of prescription painkillers in the U.S., the bills have also focused on increasing the treatment opioids for patients who are already addicted and are vulnerable to dangerous synthetic opioids such a fentanyl.
If you have lost a loved one to an overdose involving opioid painkillers, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against company that manufactured the drug, the doctor or hospital who prescribed the medication, or distributors who supplied the drug. The first step in taking legal action is to talk with an attorney with the experience in opioid litigation to advise you of your legal rights and guide you through the first steps in filing a case.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed lawsuits on behalf of opioid overdose victims and patients who suffered other complications involving dangerous prescription painkillers. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed more lawsuits involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the U.S. combined. Our firm has also represented families who have lost a loved one to other opioid drugs, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, morphine, and other painkillers.
For more information about the opioid lawsuits filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson and to find out whether you may qualify to file a claim, contact our office by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few short questions to get started.