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opioid crisis

Big Pharma’s Role in the Opioid Crisis

When leading drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma first released OxyContin, they marketed it as a safe drug with a low risk of addiction, intentionally misleading prescribing physicians and their patients about the true nature of opioids.

Now, the nation is struggling to come to terms with the reality that an average of 130 Americans die of opioid overdose daily, and that many more struggle to live healthy, productive lives due to opioid addictions. More people have begun demanding that we, as a country, hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for the role they played in creating and fueling the opioid crisis.

Lawsuits Affecting the Pharmaceutical Industry

Purdue Pharma has recently found itself in some legal hot water. Last month, the company settled a $270 million lawsuit with the state of Oklahoma – the largest amount in a state opioid suit thus far, but still a drop in the bucket for a company worth an estimated $3 billion.

An ongoing case in Massachusetts and New York has also shed light on the extent to which members of the ultra-wealthy Sackler family, which owns Purdue, personally became involved in plans to market and profit from sales of OxyContin. Suits like these allege Purdue sang the praises of OxyContin while minimizing the risks of using these drugs long-term, leading to a wave of opioid misuse and accidental overdoses.

Purdue and the Sacklers, of course, have denied these claims, yet a growing body of scientific evidence suggests otherwise. For several years, research has supported the concept that the easy availability of legally manufactured, legitimately prescribed opioid painkillers played a vital role in propelling the opioid epidemic to increasingly greater heights. Here are some of the most impactful statistics to demonstrate that connection.

Opioid Prescriptions and Overdoses Increased Hand in Hand

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented that sales of opioid painkillers, including OxyContin and Vicodin, quadrupled between 1999 and the late 2000s. At the same time, the number of people seeking professional help for an opioid addiction skyrocketed by 600 percent.

States provided additional evidence proving the link between easily available opioids and accidental drug overdose. The CDC found the states with the highest opioid sales tended to have correspondingly higher death rates as well. Doctors who irresponsibly overprescribe these drugs could significantly affect the painkiller supply, CDC researchers argued, pointing to a 2011 study that found 3 percent of doctors disproportionately accounted for 62 percent of opioid prescriptions in California.

Also, a study published in JAMA Network earlier this year found an undeniable link to the amount of marketing dollars pharmaceutical companies spent on promoting opioids to doctors in a county and the amount of opioids doctors in that county would be willing to prescribe.

Restricting Prescriptions Can Cause Users to Turn to Harder Drugs

In an effort to relieve painful withdrawal symptoms, people who are addicted to opioids but can no longer obtain a legitimate doctor’s prescription to do so may begin buying their drugs in the street. Drugs like heroin and fentanyl – the most common cause of fatal opioid overdoses in the country – are much cheaper and easier to obtain than opioids for many users. However, they are also much more potent and can cause an addiction to worsen, putting users at far greater risk of accidental overdose and death.

Hope Is on the Horizon

If you are seeking help for your own or a loved one’s opioid dependency, contact the admissions specialists at Inland Detox today. We provide safe, comfortable, medically supervised opioid detox in a stable and tranquil environment. Don’t wait any longer to get help for your opioid misuse disorder. Let our detoxification professionals help you with the first stages of freedom from opioid addiction.