America’s Drug Problem
Discussion of dangerous drugs in the U.S. tends to focus heavily on the scourge of illegal and highly-addictive drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth.
But the truth of the matter is, cholesterol medication can be just as deadly as a bad batch of heroin if its makers and distributors don’t exercise great care.
In fact, the vast majority of our problems with drugs stem from the use and abuse of prescription drugs. Boston dangerous drug lawyers at The Law Offices of The Attorney Injury Group are aware more people die from prescription drug overdoses annually than are killed in drunk driving accidents.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports the number of people over age 20 using a prescription drug now hovers around 60 percent – the highest ever. That means the majority of Americans are taking prescription drugs. That’s compared to the 8 percent who regularly use illegal drugs.
Much of this is related to a rise in obesity, as the most commonly-prescribed drugs are for hypertension, diabetes and heart failure. Also, the aging population has placed an increased demand for drugs and new drugs are hitting the market all the time.
Prescription Drug “Epidemic”
Prescription drug abuse – particularly of pain medications – is also a major problem.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports 52 million people in the U.S. over age 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. Further:
- 6.1 million people have used prescription drugs non-medically in just the last month;
- In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult every four hours for a full month;
- The U.S. contains 5 percent of the world’s population, but consumes 75 percent of its prescription drugs;
- Most abused prescription drugs are: painkillers, tranquillizers and stimulants.
A recent report from The White House on its National Drug Control Strategy referred to America’s prescription drug abuse crisis as an “epidemic.” While reporting the use of some illicit drugs like cocaine has slid in recent years, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed one-third of people over 12 who used drugs for the first time started with non-medical use of prescription medications, making these substances the new “gateway drugs” for youth. Among the other highlights:
- From 1997 to 2007, the milligram per-person use of prescription opiods in the U.S. increased more than 400 percent;
- The number of opiods dispensed by retail pharmacies shot up by 50 percent between 2000 and 2009, from 174 million prescriptions to 257 million prescriptions;
- In the U.S. military, illicit drug use more than doubled from 5 percent to 12 percent in a three-year period, primarily attributed to abuse of
- prescription drugs.
Still, national policies have to be carefully crafted because there are many benefits to these drugs. For example, potent painkillers offer great relief from suffering for those in hospice, enduring cancer treatment or suffering acute trauma. Benzodiazepines help many people with crippling anxiety disorders to start overcoming their fears. Stimulant medications have a wide range of benefits across medical disciplines. But the potential for abuse and overdose is very real, and must be taken into consideration by prescribing physicians and dispensing pharmacists.
Liability for Dangerous Drugs
Although most drugs are acquired and used legally and responsibly, there is still potential danger. Drugs and medications are frequently at the center of product liability lawsuits and medical negligence allegations.
While manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure they appropriately test drugs before releasing them to the public, doctors owe a duty to exercise the appropriate level of care under the circumstances. A drug company that fails to vet their product as designed and manufactured or to warn of potential complications may be held liable for injuries and illnesses caused. Similarly, a doctor who fails to explain the risks or recklessly prescribes addictive medications may also be held liable for resulting injuries or death.
Our experienced dangerous drug attorneys have successfully pursued litigation against pharmaceutical companies, physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers who manufactured or distributed drugs that were dangerous or doled out powerful drugs negligently.
We recognize that while there are some drugs that may be unavoidably unsafe, meaning they cannot be made totally safe no matter how carefully they are manufactured. Still, these drugs have to be properly prepared and be labeled with adequate warnings.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury, illness or death as a result of dangerous drugs or defective medications, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.