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Opioids: Strongest Contributor to Sharp Increase In Drug Overdose Deaths

Opioids: Strongest Contributor to Sharp Increase In Drug Overdose Deaths

Opioids: Strongest Contributor to Sharp Increase In Drug Overdose Deaths 1080 1080 Panter, Panter & Sampedro

Driven primarily by the opioid epidemic, drug overdose deaths have reached over 100,000 annually, according to a new report by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Initial data suggests that during the twelve-month period ending in April 2021, the number of deaths due to drug overdose increased by 28.5%, with synthetic opioids responsible for 64% of all drug overdose deaths. 19,609 more individuals died this year due to an opioid overdose, as compared to the prior year. The report highlights overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl), psychostimulants like methamphetamines, and cocaine. 

The Dangers of Synthetic Opioids

Experts contribute the rise in overdose deaths to the increased use of fentanyl and the COVID-19 pandemic, as recently reported by CNN

“What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices,” Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told CNN.

The pandemic has also caused synthetic opioids to be more readily available than their “natural” opiate counterparts, partly due to supply chain breakdowns. This caused users to seek out other new sources, increasing the possibility of overdose because the drug could be cut with a stronger and more powerful substance unbeknownst to the consumer. For example, an opioid cut with fentanyl will be one hundred times more powerful than the same drug cut by morphine. 

Opiates Versus Opioids

Opiates are considered natural when they are derived from the poppy plant and include the common drugs opium, morphine, and codeine. Nature creates the active ingredient in opiates. In an opioid, such as fentanyl, the active ingredient is chemically produced. Data reported by the CDC states that in recent years the increase in deaths by overdose is largely due to synthetic opioids (excluding methadone). However, the research does not distinguish between prescribed opioids and their illicitly manufactured counterparts. 

Today’s American Opioid Crisis

Provisional data from the CDC suggests that  “economic shock, social isolation and increased mental health distress, and disrupted access to addiction support and medications that require face-to-face visits” during the pandemic also contributed to overdoses and death. The CDC’s findings point to three separate, but interconnected waves that are driving today’s American opioid crisis. They are an increase in deaths due to overdoses from prescription opioid drugs since the 1990s, an increase in deaths due to heroin overdoses since 2010, and a recent sharp increase in deaths from overdoses due to illicitly manufactured opioids including fentanyl.  

Signs of Opioid Abuse

Misuse of opioids affects more than two million Americans each year. The likelihood that an individual has a family member or neighbor who is addicted to an opioid drug is quite high. West Virginia, Maryland, and New Hampshire currently lead the nation in opioid-related deaths. 

Although determining if an individual is addicted to opioids during the early stages of addiction is difficult, The Mayo Clinic lists the following risk factors: 

  • The individual is in their teens or early twenties. 
  • Is enduring a stressful period, including being unemployed or living below the poverty line. 
  • Has a family or personal history of substance abuse. 
  • Has had legal issues before, which may include DUI.
  • Is often exposed to high-risk environments or high-risk people where drugs are present.
  • Is prone to depression or anxiety.
  • Regularly engages in risky behavior.
  • Is a heavy tobacco user. 

Common Signs of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid addiction or dependency is known medically as “opioid use disorder”. The disorder is classified by the inability to abstain from taking opioids, and a daily life centered around opioid use resulting in disastrous consequences. An individual may be physically dependent or not. Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal symptoms such as cravings or sweating and often makes it much more difficult for a person to quit the drug. John Hopkins Medicine lists twelve signs of opioid abuse and they are as follows: 

  • The inability to control opioid use.
  • Cravings, which a person cannot control. 
  • Sleepiness or exhaustion.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns. 
  • Sudden weight loss. 
  • Recurring flu-like symptoms.
  • Decrease in libido. 
  • Disregard general hygiene. 
  • Change in exercise habits. 
  • Withdrawal or isolation from friends and family.
  • Stealing from friends, family, or businesses. 
  • Novel financial struggles. 

What To Do If A Loved One Is Abusing Opioids

If a friend or family member suspects a loved one is addicted to opioids, the best course of action is to immediately contact their physician. Medical professionals may provide treatment for opioid use disorder or may refer an individual to a treatment facility. Common medications for the treatment of opioid addiction include methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. When combined with physiological support programs, these medications can be surprisingly effective in helping an addicted individual recover. 

Call A Dangerous Drug Attorney

Often, individuals find themselves in the midst of an opioid use disorder when the medication is wrongly prescribed, the appropriate dosage is not followed, or an illicit version of the drug is consumed. In terms of personal injury law, the first of these fall into the realm of medical malpractice, while the product or drug itself may also be at fault under the legal term of product liability. 

Medical malpractice requires an attorney to prove that accepted standards of care were violated and that those violations led to injury or death. Dangerous drugs fall under the legal category of product liability. A drug is found to be dangerous when there is a mistake in the manufacturing process, a flaw in its design, or if patients were not warned about the drug’s side effects or possible addictive qualities. 

If you or a loved one has been seriously harmed or died from a prescription drug overdose, you should immediately call a dangerous drug attorney. The lawyers of Panter, Panter, and Sampedro have the experience and resources to help you recover what you deserve. For a free case review call (305) 662-6178.















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