It might seem like a thing of the past to those who lived through the 1970s and ‘80s, but opioid abuse has been on the rise for the past decade. The opioid epidemic in Ohio has taken the lives of more than 3,000 residents per year and leads the nation in terms of overdose deaths. While opioid prescriptions in Ohio have declined by about 42 million over two years — prescription abuse is a major reason for the epidemic — opioids make up 85% of total overdose deaths in the state.
The experienced attorneys of Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz are committed to holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for downplaying the addictive nature of these drugs and keeping doctors who prescribe opiates in check if they missed any signs of addiction and were negligent with their patients. Right now, manufacturers, distributors, and large drugstore chains are facing lawsuits from at least 25 states, cities, and counties — even the attorney general in Ohio filed suit against this $13 billion industry. According to the Washington Post, the prescription drug epidemic has resulted in nearly 180,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015, which is more than three times the amount of Americans who died during the Vietnam War.
Below, we’ll go over what exactly opioids are and the warning signs of possible opiate abuse, along with prescribing guidelines for these dangerous drugs in Ohio and how to get help.
Opioids and Painkillers in Your Medicine Cabinet
Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, which is illegal, as well as drugs you might find in your home, such as prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s similar to morphine but about 50 to 100 times more potent. It’s typically used to treat patients with severe pain after surgery, or for patients with chronic pain who are tolerant to other opioids.
Although these drugs are all generally safe if taken as prescribed and for a short duration, because they can cause a euphoria-like feeling, it’s easy to abuse them. However, even regular use prescribed by a doctor can lead to dependence and even overdose. Thirty-eight percent of all overdose deaths in Ohio involve fentanyl, for instance.
An overdose from an opioid can be reversed when the drug naloxone is given right away, usually by a paramedic or other first responder. However, more states are allowing naloxone to be accessed by anyone in an emergency situation. In 2017, 75% of all retail pharmacies in Ohio offered naloxone without a prescription in 85 out of 88 counties.
See also: 5 Most Dangerous Prescription Drugs
What are the warning signs of opiate abuse?
If someone you know is abusing opioids, they likely will show a few signs. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Constricted pupils;
- Appears tired, drowsy — may nod and continue talking but actually nod off;
- Itchy, constipated, nauseous, may vomit;
- Poor memory or concentration;
- Slowed breathing, movement, and reactions;
- Mood swings, anxiety, apathy, and/or depression; and
- Reduced social interaction.
Additionally, if someone is addicted to drugs they may undergo lifestyle and other behavior changes. Whatever money they have may go toward feeding their opiate addiction, or they may sell drugs or commit other legal acts to get money for opioids. They may talk about partying and drinking more than usual, and let their physical appearance deteriorate. They’ll probably begin to neglect work or school and start having outbursts, appear jittery or secretive, or start asking for loans from family members.
Who can prescribe opioids in Ohio?
Health-care providers have a critical role in an opiate addict’s life. The addict may have started out with a legit prescription for pain, but it escalated to addiction.
The State of Ohio invests $1 billion each year to fight drug abuse and addiction, including creating new rules to limit opioid prescriptions and getting rid of “pill mills.” Prescriptions have decreased by 20% since 2012, while “doctor shopping” — trying to get a prescription filled by multiple doctors — has decreased 78%.
It’s estimated that the following new acute-pain prescription guidelines will reduce opiate doses by 109 million per year in Ohio:
- No more than 7 days of opiates can be prescribed for adults, and no more than 5 days for minors;
- Total morphine-equivalent dose (MED) of a prescription for acute pain cannot exceed an average of 30 MED daily;
- Health-care providers are prohibited from prescribing opiates that exceed these limits, unless they provide a specific reason in the patient’s medical record; and
- Prescribers must include a diagnosis or procedure code on every controlled substance prescription, which will be entered into the state’s prescription monitoring program, the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System.
It’s important to note that these limits don’t apply to anyone who has been prescribed opiates for cancer, palliative care, hospice care, or medication-assisted addiction treatment.
Opioid Epidemic Lawsuits
If you or a loved one are struggling with an opiate addiction, it’s important for you to seek medical help and treatment. In Ohio, $26 million in additional federal funding will be going to help fight the opioid epidemic in 2017. For addiction services providers by county, click here.
If your doctor was negligent in prescribing you opiates to manage pain, you also may have a medical malpractice claim. Contact the experienced attorneys of Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz today for a free consultation.