It would be difficult to find anyone in New Mexico who hasn't heard something about the dramatic increase in overdoses and deaths attributed to opioids. When pharmaceutical companies released these drugs back in the 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry gave doctors and others in the medical community assurances that they were not addictive. This prompted a significant rise in the number of prescriptions written and filled.
Opioids do an amazing job of helping patients with their pain, but those assurances about them not being addictive were completely wrong. The number of people addicted to these drugs rose to such a level that in recent years, the federal government declared it a crisis and urged doctors to slow down or even stop prescribing them. In the meantime, the pharmaceutical industry made billions of dollars at the expense of people's health and lives.
The numbers are astonishing
Researchers gathering and analyzing data discovered some disturbing facts about the prevalence of opioid addiction and overdose across the country. Some of those findings include the following:
- Approximately two million people used or abused prescription opioids in 2015. That same year, the number of documented heroin users was only 591,000.
- Approximately 33,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2015. In this case, opioids include prescription opioids, fentanyl and heroin users.
- Somewhere between 21 and 29 percent of people with chronic pain who receive prescriptions for opioids end up abusing them.
- Between July 2016 and September 2017, opioid overdoses rose 30 percent in 45 states.
- Anywhere from eight to 12 percent of people prescribed opioids end up with some type of opioid disorder.
- In 16 states, the instances of opioid overdoses increased 54 percent in the larger cities.
Rightfully so, these numbers alarm many people. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration usually recalls medications that cause deaths or present a significant risk to patients, but that has not happened when it comes to opioids. Fortunately, the medical industry appears to be recognizing the danger of addiction, abuse and overdose associated with these medications, but their efforts may not be enough by themselves.
Pharmaceutical companies ought to take a measure of responsibility for the opioid crisis, and it may be up to ordinary citizens to make that happen. If you lost a loved one to an overdose of opioids, you may want to consider seeking compensation for your losses. The first step in that process may be to determine your rights and legal options.