Opioid Injury Lawsuits. It is evident that the opioid epidemic affects individuals and their families. After all, those battling drug addictions face significant health problems, with many dying after overdosing on illegal substances. Others may get arrested for possessing drugs or driving under the influence and lose their jobs. However, the reach of drug addiction, particularly opioid dependence, extends far beyond individuals and their loved ones. The opioid epidemic has impacted the local and national economy as well.
In a recent article from Newsday, the authors explore the impact the opioid crisis has had on businesses. In Long Island alone, companies have lost millions, primarily by on-the-job accidents and a reduction in productivity. In extreme cases, addicts have robbed stores, desperate to get a bit of cash so they can buy more drugs.
A study from Stony Brook University noted that users of heroin, prescription painkillers, and other types of substances are no longer high school or college-aged individuals-many addicts are in their thirties, forties, or even fifties. These decades are the primary employment years of many individuals’ lives.
One estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speculates that the national economy has lost approximately $79 billion every single year. The costs are mainly due to fronting a greater law enforcement presence and funding drug addiction facilities. Of course, business disruption is costly as well.
William Reitzig is an executive at Fabco Industries, Inc., a company that manufactures storm water filters. Last year, his son died after apparently overdosing on heroin. Billy was just 25 years old.
“In every business, there is somebody with an addiction problem,” Reitzig said. Reitzig joined four other speakers last October to discuss the opioid crisis. The event was set up by the Long Island Association business group, as well as the Long Island Community Foundation.
Billy became addicted to opioids at just 18 years old. He lawfully obtained a prescription for painkillers after he broke his arm playing baseball. For seven years, his father spent many working hours trying to help his son. He remembered, “It affected me every day…A couple of times I just dropped everything and left and went home to see my son.” At the time, Reitzig was running the Sports Plus entertainment complex, which is now closed.
Also, Billy’s employer, the White Plains Ritz-Carlton hotel, lost a valuable employee.
An audience member later spoke up. Gregory P. Demetriou, who serves as the CEO of Lorraine Gregory Communications, commented that one of his employees had just lost her granddaughter to a drug overdose. He said, “This touches all businesses in all kinds of ways. The poor woman and her family are all brokenhearted, and I don’t know when she will be able to come back to work.”
David M. Okorn, the executive director of the community foundation, commented that the opioid epidemic impacts the economy in multiple ways. He explained, “It goes much beyond you having an employee who is addicted. It’s the banks, the stores, the pharmacies that are getting held up…It’s the employee that may not be focused while they are at work because their child, spouse or distant relative is addicted.”
The foundation recently created the Opioid Crisis Fund, which raises money for drug treatment centers in Suffolk and Nassau counties.
Additionally, the Family and Children’s Association, another non-profit organization, also opened a center that helps recovering addicts secure employment and stay off of drugs. The CEO, Jeffrey L. Reynolds, commented that he was shocked when he was turned down by 13 different landlords as he struggled to find space for the Center for Transformation, Healing, Recovery, Inspiration, Validation, and Empowerment (THRIVE). Reynolds finally found space in Islandia. Reynolds said, “The opioid crisis is the single biggest public health threat to Long Island right now.”
Drew Scott is a vocal advocate for solutions to drug addiction. He has repeatedly urged business executives to help fight the opioid epidemic. The issue is a personal matter for him: last fall, his 22-year-old granddaughter, Hallie, died after apparently overdosing.
The Opioid Crisis is a National Problem
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 116 people died every single day in 2016 due to opioid-related overdoses. That’s more than 40,000 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and friends that were lost. It is calculated that around 15,000 of these deaths were due to heroin overdoses. The Department also estimated that 11.5 million individuals misused their opioid prescriptions-meaning, these individuals did not take their medication as prescribed. For example, perhaps some took more pills in a single dose than they were supposed to. More than 2 million misused their prescriptions for the first time in 2016.
What Can be Done About the Opioid Crisis?
Many cities, municipalities, and states have begun taking action to combat the opioid crisis. These entities have spent millions and millions of dollars on drug rehabilitation centers and stronger law enforcement measures to fight drug problems. Also, these entities have seen their local economies suffer because of these substances.
Though one may argue that it is an individual’s choice to take illegal drugs or to intentionally take them in a way that has not been prescribed, many pharmaceutical companies are being held responsible for the harm these substances have caused communities all over the country.
Some pharmaceutical companies have allegedly engaged in unethical behavior to ensure their products-which contain opioids-are prescribed by doctors. For example, one company, Insys Therapeutics, is accused of engaging in fraud. According to legal complaints, employees of Insys Therapeutics were directed to call insurance companies and persuade adjusters to approve prescriptions. The problem? The Insys employees allegedly pretended to be representatives from doctors’ offices.
Other pharmaceutical companies are accused of misleading the public as to how addictive opioid medications truly are. For example, fentanyl, which is an opioid prescribed for severe pain, is significantly more potent than heroin. According to the CDC, it is 100 times more potent than morphine. In fact, a lethal dose of heroin is around 30 milligrams. A lethal dose of fentanyl is just 3 milligrams. These medications increase a user’s dopamine levels, producing a sense of relaxation and euphoria.
Many of these claims against pharmaceutical companies have been successful, with multi-million-dollar settlements being reached. However, there is still a long way to go before the opioid epidemic is stopped. Doctors should not be quick to prescribe these medications, and patients should be presented with alternatives. Additionally, patients should be educated on the risks of taking such substances for their conditions.
The opioid crisis has grown tremendously in recent years. However, with proper action at the local, state, and national level, the United States may be able to see a decrease in the number of deaths caused by opioid-related overdoses, and its economy may be able to recover from the damage the opioid epidemic has caused.
Call Parker Waichman LLP for Your Free Case Evaluation
At Parker Waichman LLP, we fight pharmaceutical companies that have contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic on behalf of businesses, county and state municipalities. To schedule your free consultation with our experienced drug injury attorneys, call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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