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A Series on the Opioid Crisis – Part I: The American Epidemic

June 15 2018 | Blog
  • The opioid crisis has been crippling communities throughout the country for far too long and claiming too many lives. In an effort to raise awareness of this problem and the need for practical solutions, we present a series of 4 articles dedicated to this topic.

    The American opioid epidemic has been described as having no face. Perhaps it is more accurate to say, however, that it has too many. It is estimated that over 2 million Americans suffer from opioid addiction reports The New York Times. More than 42,000 people overdosed on opioids in 2016 – the worst year on record. On average, 115 Americans die from opioid overdose each day.

    You may be tempted to think that this problem could never affect your community or your family. However, a closer look at both the hard data and personal stories of families and individuals afflicted with addiction to opioids will likely make you think again. Drug overdose deaths related to opioids and prescription drugs are rising faster than ever in the U.S. Victims come from every social stratum and all walks of life. 

    Frank Whitelaw, the coroner for Essex County, New York, explains that among the victims are “gifted, smart, rich, poor, doctors, lawyers, cops, judges, moms, dads, bus drivers, pilots, nurses, financial planners” and so on. An article published in The Atlantic magazine last November, poignantly entitled “No Family Is Safe From This Epidemic”, noted: “Many people have a simple understanding of addiction. They think it happens only to dysfunctional people from dysfunctional families, or to homeless people living on the street. But our addicted population is spread across every segment of society: rich and poor, white and black, male and female, old and young”.

    In addition to the devastating physical and psychological effects this crisis imposes on individuals and communities, it also has an indirect economic effect on virtually all Americans. A study published two years ago in the journal Medical Care estimated that the annual cost to the U.S. economy of prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence is $78.5 billion. A study conducted last year by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), independently concluded that the cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 could surpass a staggering $500 billion.    

    While the breadth and scope of this problem are deeply troubling, at Hughes & Coleman, we are particularly concerned for the members of our own communities. In 2016, Kentucky was one of the five states with the highest drug overdose rate in the country – 33.5 per 100,000 people. 

    You may personally know someone who has a prescription drug abuse problem. It may be a high school friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Perhaps you have lost a family member to opioid overdose, or you may even be struggling with addiction yourself. 

    Despite the overwhelming scope of the problem, or perhaps precisely because of it, no effort to address the opioid addiction crisis in our communities can be deemed too small or insignificant. We hope that this series will raise awareness of this burning issue. 

    Our next article will consider the history and the reasons behind the opioid epidemic. Then, a look at legal actions related to the crisis will shed light on whether lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors might be a potential solution. In the last article of the series, we will review what current efforts are being made to tackle the crisis and offer some helpful advice to those who may have been affected by opioid addiction.

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