An opioid overdose lawsuit may be an option for people in Colorado who have lost a close family member due to an addiction with opioids. Opioid addiction has grown significantly in the past 30 years, a growth that many say is the result of marketing campaigns from manufacturers that downplayed the risk of addiction to these drugs and from doctors who began to overprescribe them to their patients. Now termed a national epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids continue to take the lives of thousands of Americans every year and there is no indication that the trend is going to stop anytime soon. For those families affected by the opioid crisis, they may be able to seek compensation from those responsible with the help of a bad drug attorney.
If your loved one died as the result of an opioid overdose, contact Attorney Group to learn about your options. We offer free, no obligation consultations. We can help answer your questions, and if you choose to pursue a claim we can connect you with an affiliated opioid overdose lawyer who can assist you throughout the legal process.
Understanding What Opioids Are
Opioids are both natural and synthetic, but they can be traced back to one source that was discovered around 3,400 B.C. – opium. Opium is a natural, milky-white substance found on the seed pod of the poppy and when dried and smoked, produces a euphoric feeling in the user. It was called the joy plant by early civilizations and its popularity made it a source of trade and commerce, eventually spreading from Southeast Asia to places in Europe, China and the United States. Then in the early 1800s, a scientist working with opium discovered a compound that would be called morphine and used to medically treat people for pain.
Since that time, other opioids have been developed and their primary purpose is to relieve severe pain in people with conditions such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, nerve damage and chronic back pain. When an opioid enters the body, it attaches itself to receptors in the brain where it changes the way that the brain is perceiving how pain feels and blocks the messages from the body that tell the brain there is pain, giving the person relief from their suffering. Common opioids on the market include OxyContin®, Percocet®, Vicodin® and Methadone.
The Risk Associated with Opioids
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared in 2017 that the nation was facing a new public health emergency after overdose deaths stemming from opioid use reached epic numbers – over 42,000 in 2016 alone. Addiction to opioids has been a problem since opium was first discovered, but the risk grew greater with the introduction of each new opioid, especially because once a patient becomes hooked on the drug, they often turn to street drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, which are more powerful and more dangerous. This is due to the body’s adaptation to the opioids, making them less effective and thereby, requiring users to take more of them in order to achieve the same feeling.
For Colorado, the opioid epidemic has not been as severe as in some states, but its residents are feeling the impact, according to The Denver Post. In 2015, statistics show that the number of deaths from opioid overdose ranked the state at No. 32, leading state officials to entertain the idea of passing a law that limits the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a patient as well as opening a place where people using opioids can actually go and inject them safely. If a patient overdoses, there would be responders on the scene to administer naloxone, which is termed the most effective drug in treating opioid overdose.
Opioid Overdose Legal Actions
In January 2018, Huerfano County became the first government in the state to file a lawsuit against manufacturers of opioids and other counties may follow that example, according to The Gazette. Huerfano is seeking compensation for the $1.5 million that is estimated for future expenses to address the opioid epidemic in its communities, as well as the more than $750,000 it has already spent on public services, medical care, fire department responses to overdoses and police actions to combat the problem. The county alleges that its struggles with opioid use was caused by the marketing and advertising campaigns of opioid manufacturers, which made false claims in an effort to sell their product.
Since at least 2004, government entities and families have been filing lawsuits against drug companies, pharmacies and distributors for what they say was their role in creating the current crisis. Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $600 million in 2007 to settle a case filed by the U.S. Department of Justice after evidence was presented that showed the company falsified reports and charts in an effort to convince doctors their opioid, OxyContin®, was safe to use. The company’s revenue in sales from the drug was $2.8 billion.