America is currently contending with the worst opioid epidemic in recent history. Whereas legal evidence is crucial in order to connect opiate addiction to manufacturers, studies reveal that easy access to legal prescription painkillers is a primary contributing factor to addiction.
One of the pharmaceutical companies that have come under fire due to this is the OxyContin manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. A few days ago the company made a record settlement of $270 million after being embroiled in a tough lawsuit with the state of Oklahoma. Ongoing cases in New York and Massachusetts also reveal that Purdue tried to market OxyContin by misrepresenting it as less addictive, thereby resulting in an opiate epidemic.
Ultimately, it is the court’s obligation to decide the degree in which Purdue Pharma’s policies contributed to the opiate epidemic. Nevertheless, evidence has been mounting over the years, which directly links heroin and opiate addiction to the availability and easy access to prescription painkillers.
Here are studies that link pharmaceutical companies to the opioid epidemic in America today.
Research conducted by the CDC revealed that the sale of opioid painkillers such as Percocet and OxyContin quadrupled between 1999 and 2009. Similarly, the number of deaths related to opiate overdose rose by 400 percent. Incidentally, the number of patients with opiate addiction rose by 600 percent.
Studies conducted in conjunction with several states also revealed that regions with higher opiate sells also had much higher opiate-related deaths and vice versa. These studies show the close connection between pharmaceutical companies and unscrupulous doctors to opiate addiction and opiate-related deaths.
Years after the CDC made essential revelations about the role of big pharmaceutical companies in the opioid epidemic, another study revealed how aggressive marketing policies by companies contributed to opioid addiction and death. The study found out that the more resources used by pharmaceutical companies to market opioid painkillers, the more opiate prescriptions would be administered to patients. As a result of this, many patients ended up becoming addicted to opiate painkillers or dying of an opiate overdose.
Opioid painkillers and narcotics like heroin typically have more or less the same effect on users. Therefore, it is incredibly easy for an abuser of opiate painkillers to become addicted to heroin. Nevertheless, statistics from NSDUH show that most opioid abusers take them in the form of prescription pills.
Research by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & MentalHealth Services Administration), suggests that the most popular source for prescription painkillers is from friends or relatives. This factor, combined with the high rate of prescription for opiate painkillers, is the leading cause of opiate addiction and opioid-related deaths in America. Studies prove that patients with prescriptions for opiate painkillers are more likely to give these pills to their close friends and relatives.
Since heroin has effects similar to prescription painkillers, people who are unable to access pills due to bans ultimately seek out heroin to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. During a survey conducted in 2012, many respondents said they preferred alternative opiates like heroin to the newly introduced OxyContin pills which are much harder to crush, dissolve and inject. The findings of this study suggested that the unavailability of easy-to-use painkillers directly led to an increase in heroin abuse and addiction.
Medical officials now believe that the deadliest opiates are not prescribed by pharmaceutical companies but are counterfeits trafficked by sources in China and Mexico. One of the most lethal of these opiates is fentanyl which can be bought over the counter. Most of these pills are counterfeit mixtures which include narcotics like cocaine.
The onus is now on the legal structures to determine to what extent pharmaceutical companies have contributed to the opiate epidemic in America. Nevertheless, the obvious link between easily available prescription pills and opiate addiction is beyond debate.