Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Opioid narcotics are drugs that bind to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body to block or reduce feelings of pain. They are often prescribed for patients who have just had surgery or experienced physical trauma such as a car accident or serious sports injury.
Since 1999, there has been a 300 percent increase in opioid prescriptions in the United States. Along with the increase in prescriptions, there’s been a deadly uptick in opioid addiction, which is now the leading cause of death in individuals under the age of 50.
In the mid-1990s, opioid manufacturers unleashed a misleading marketing push underplaying the risks of opioid painkillers and exaggerating the drugs’ benefits. Its false advertising led to deadly consequences — by encouraging doctors to overprescribe pills and get patients to think the pills were safe and effective.
More than 115 people in America die every day due to accidental misuse of these drugs–that’s one person every 12 minutes–and “the opioid epidemic” is the term used to describe this health crisis. You should call an Opioid lawyer if you or a loved one has been harmed by this drug and are looking to understand your legal options.
What are the Commonly Prescribed Opioids?
- Oxycodone (brand names: OxyContin, Roxicodone, Oxecta)
Oxycodone (brand names: OxyContin, Roxicodone, Oxecta)
Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opioid derived from thebaine, an opioid alkaloid found in the Persian poppy and one of the many alkaloids found in the opium poppy. These pills come in various shapes, sizes and colors depending on the dose and brand.
Hydrocodone is the powerful main ingredient in narcotic painkillers for moderate to severe pain but also commonly taken in liquid form as an antitussive/cough suppressant. It is often administered orally to treat short-term dental and injury-related pain. Hydrocodone is considered an “opioid,” or a semi-synthetic opiate and is similar to drugs like morphine, codeine and oxycodone.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid prescribed for moderate to severe pain. It’s commonly used to treat opiate addictions, especially addiction to heroin. Methadone does not create the same euphoric effects as heroin or morphine because it is designed to do the opposite; the drug is formulated to block the pleasurable sensations of other opiates.
Fentanyl is an opioid used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. Drugs in this group have varying but often very high levels of potency. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.
Morphine is a non-synthetic narcotic with a high potential for abuse and is derived from opium. It is used for the treatment of pain and acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to decrease the feeling of pain. Traditionally, morphine was almost exclusively used by injection, but it’s also dispensed as a long-acting, extended-release tablet or pill.
What are the Side Effects of Opioid Prescription Drug Use?
- Constipation: When using strong painkillers such as opioids or other narcotics, constipation can occur. Unlike most side effects, constipation tends to persist.
- Drowsiness: Opioids can act as muscle relaxants that cause drowsiness. This may be how the drug works to “relieve” pain.
- Nausea and Vomiting: There are many conditions that are associated with the causes of nausea or vomiting including the use of narcotics or other medications associated with Opioids.
Other side effects of Opioids use include:
- Euphoria, dysphoria, agitation, seizures, hallucinations
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Muscular rigidity and contractions
- Non-allergic itching
- Pupil constriction
- Respiratory depression
- Sexual dysfunction
- Urinary retention
It’s smart to keep track of any potential Opioid side effects you have experienced if you are looking to file a lawsuit with the help of an attorney.
What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)?
Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb. Two major types of NAS are recognized as:
- NAS due to prenatal or maternal use of substances that result in withdrawal symptoms in the newborn
- Postnatal NAS secondary to discontinuation of medications such as fentanyl or morphine used for pain therapy in the newborn
The neonatal abstinence syndrome refers to a postnatal opioid withdrawal syndrome that can occur in 55 to 94% of newborns whose mothers were addicted to or treated with opioids while pregnant. When you take these drugs during pregnancy, they can pass through the placenta and cause serious problems for your baby. Substances that cause drug dependence and addiction in the mother also causes the fetus to become addicted. However, since the drug is no longer available, the baby’s central nervous system becomes overstimulated causing symptoms of withdrawal.
Some drugs are more likely to cause NAS than others, but nearly all have some effect on the baby. Opiates, such as heroin and methadone, cause withdrawal in over half of babies exposed prenatally.
Have Opioid Overdose Crisis Lawsuits Been Filed?
Attorneys who file lawsuits regarding opioid painkillers often claim that prescription drugs were responsible for an individual’s addiction. Approximately 75 percent of addicts have reported their first opioid was a prescription drug and in many cases, plaintiffs moved on to illegal opioids like heroin when their scripts ran out.
Some people have reportedly resorted to criminal activity to steal or pay for more drugs.
Most opioid lawsuits allege that the drug manufacturers turned a blind eye to suspicious orders for years. Instead of investigating enormous shipments to pharmacies and prescriptions from doctors, the opioid manufacturers chased profits and ignored the epidemic.
The drug manufacturers have also been accused of paying kickbacks to doctors who promoted off-label opioid use. Many believe the current opioid epidemic lies at the feet of the drug manufacturers because they pushed opioid medicines through extensive marketing schemes.
Lawsuits claim drug manufacturers misled the public and doctors about the addictiveness of opioid-based medicines. That means that some doctors may have been making uninformed decisions when prescribing opioids to patients and unwillingly led their patients down the path of addiction.
Find an Opioid Crisis Attorney Today
Our award-winning opioid overdose lawyers can help you if you or your family member was harmed by an opioid-related death, overdose, or symptoms of overdose requiring hospitalization.
- The victim must have been prescribed opioids: If you wish to join the opioid lawsuit, you or the lost loved one must have been prescribed opioids at the time of the overdose or hospitalization. Unfortunately, at this time the opioid lawsuit is only covering victims with prescriptions of the actual opioid they overdosed on.
- If you lost a loved one from an opioid overdose: The opioid lawsuit can be joined by families that lost a loved one from an opioid overdose. While the opioid lawsuit cannot bring back your loved one, it can hold the drug manufacturers liable for their actions.
- If you were hospitalized from an opioid overdose: The opioid lawsuit may also include victims who were hospitalized for opioid overdoses. Those lawsuits may be able to recover the medical bills related to the opioid overdose event. Opioid overdose hospitalizations can be very expensive and some patients may require prolonged medical care.