Indiana Reports Grim Statistics Regarding Opioid Epidemic
- According to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data from U.S. emergency departments shows that the country’s opioid overdose epidemic continues to worsen.
- Opioids (including prescription opioids) killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record.
- In the report, emergency rooms in five Midwest states, including Indiana, saw visits for suspected opioid overdoses increase by nearly 70 percent from July 2016 to September 2017.
- A significant increase of 35 percent occurred in Indiana. Neighboring Wisconsin had the worst with an alarming 109 percent increase.
- Related, overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while on the job increased from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016, a 32-percent increase.
Indiana Emergency Rooms See Hike in Opioid Overdoses
Indiana emergency rooms, along with those in several other Midwest states, saw substantial increases in visits for suspected opioid overdoses by nearly 70 percent from July 2016 to September 2017, according to a new study released in early 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Indiana, the rate increased 35 percent during that time period. Wisconsin saw an alarming rate increase of 109 percent. From 2015 to 2016, emergency rooms saw a nearly 30 percent increase in suspected opioid overdoses nationwide.
Authors of the study published in the CDCs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report say, “the increases suggest a worsening of the epidemic into late 2017 in several states possibly driven by highly potent fentanyl becoming available.” Other shocking study highlights included:
- Overdose deaths increased 21 percent in 2016, to a total of 63,632.
- From 2016 to 2017, the study identified 142,557 visits to emergency rooms in 45 states suspected to be for opioid overdoses.
- That same time period saw a total of 91 million emergency department visits.
- Overdose fatalities have remained on the incline by at least 25 percent each year since 2012.
- In addition, overdoses from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while on the job increased from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016, a 32-percent increase.
CDC officials agree that this emergency room data offers an opportunity to intervene in the life of a person with a substance use disorder, including injured workers who may have developed an opioid addiction while healing from a work-related injury.
Opioids Are Dangerous, Highly Addictive Drugs
Opioids are drugs used to relieve pain by acting on receptors in the central nervous system. The drugs can be natural derivatives of opium, such as morphine, or they can be semi-synthetic or synthetic versions, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Opioids are intended for use by individuals who need round-the-clock relief of very severe pain, and they come in primary classes related to the release of medication into the body. There are extended release and immediate-release opioids, with immediate-release drugs carrying less opioids but needing more frequent dosing. Immediate-release painkillers account for ninety percent of human consumption.
Many users of opioids find their body develops tolerance for the drugs over time, and therefore they need more and more of the medication to get the same amount of pain relief. Opioids also create physical dependence, which means your body learns to need the drugs and will go through withdrawal when deprived of them. In addition to overdose and death, there are other very serious potential side effects, including:
- Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia—some patients develop this condition after using opioids for a long period of time. In short, the opioids cease to kill pain and instead cause pain and sensitivity in multiple areas of the body.
- Lung and Heart Problems—these issues occur in relation to the sedation caused by opioids, which impact the brain’s ability to control breathing and potentially causing damage to the lungs and heart by providing a decreased rate of air and oxygen over time.
Chronic Pain from Work-Related Injuries Also on the Rise
With approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2016, it’s no wonder why so many doctors are treating patients with opioids for pain. The issue though is the lack of consistency among clinicians on how to use opioid pain medication. An estimated 20 percent of patients presenting to physician offices with pain symptoms (noncancerous) or pain-related diagnoses (including acute and chronic pain) receive an opioid prescription and clinicians ranging from family practice, general practice, and internal medicine own some of the highest rates for opioid prescribing. Medical authorities say the lack of prevention, assessment, and treatment of chronic pain remain constant challenges for health providers especially with long, drawn out workers’ compensation claims.
But many medical facilities that have seriously taken on this issue have found other ways of treating pain to be highly effective, with nearly 75 percent of patients in ‘chronic pain’ finding relief without the use of opioid painkillers. Alternative treatments like trigger point injections, nitrous oxide, physical therapy, and nerve blocks guided by ultrasounds. These findings, along with an abundance of nationwide warnings about the dangers of addiction to opioid drugs, should be making a strong enough case for clinicians and health systems to begin prescribing opioids only as a last-case option.
Doctors, Addiction, and Liability
Given the substantial number of people who receive pain prescriptions each year and the drastic rise in addiction and overdoses reported in this CDC report, it shouldn’t feel wrong to start pinning doctors with some of the responsibility for the problem.
For a medical malpractice case related to drug addiction to be successful though, it is necessary to prove a doctor’s prescription was a breach of the duty of care. This negligence could be a failure to notice developing addiction or it could be the dosage or type of drug prescribed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend screening for substance abuse and mental health problems as a best practice, but this recommendation is often ignored, or the screening only involves a self-report question given to the patient. Clearly, this is problematic, and while doctors and pharmacists scramble to devise new norms for treating pain, it is still inevitably the patient who suffers.
The Wagner Reese Team Wants to Help You
Are you or a loved one experiencing negative effects from the use of opioids to manage pain? Do you feel as if your doctor failed to warn you of the significant risks and provide safer alternatives? The experienced attorneys at Wagner Reese are experienced in medical malpractice, product liability, and wrongful death and can provide you the knowledge you need to pursue a case against those who have wronged you and your family.
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