Chicago Healthcare Daily reports the City of Chicago is suing five drug companies. The city claims that the drug companies are pushing consumer use of prescription painkillers which creates opioid addicts and drives up costs for all consumers. The lawsuit over the prescription drugs asserts that, since 2007, the city has paid for almost $9.5 million worth of prescription opioids. These medicines, while necessary to treat some people’s pain, are highly addictive.
The theory behind the lawsuit is that the drug companies have misled the public both about the risks of using these painkillers and about the benefits of taking the medications. This leaves the patients who take the pills unaware of the costs and benefits of the drugs. These addictive drugs are similar to heroin, which leads some who become addicted to the pills to move on to heroin since it can be both cheaper and easier to obtain. Chicago is not the first to make these claims, as two counties in California already filed similar suits.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes opioids and medications that reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect areas of the brain that control emotion. This is supposed to reduce the effect of painful stimuli. Commonly prescribed drugs in this class include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and related drugs.
Opioid abuse and addiction can have a host of side effects. Some are physical, some are psychological, and some are social. Overdose can result in death, but the Mayo Clinic reports that even non-overdose quantities can result in constipation, depression, decreased breathing rate, confusion, sweating, and poor coordination. Signs that use of opioids has advanced to abuse can also include a patient engaging in the following behaviors:
-Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions (activities which can result in an otherwise law abiding citizen winding up with a felony conviction and/or serving time in jail or prison)
-Taking higher doses than prescribed -Excessive mood swings or hostility -Increased or decreased sleep -Poor decision making -Appearing to be “high”, overly energetic, or sedated -A patient claiming repeatedly to “lose” his or her prescriptions so that more must be written -A patient seeks prescriptions from multiple doctors for the same or similar medications
Just like alcohol abuse or abuse of street drugs, abuse of prescription drugs can tear families and businesses apart. But unlike alcohol or street drugs, in the case of prescription drugs you have doctors and major pharmaceutical companies getting people hooked. People start using these drugs because they are in real pain, and because the medical community tells them it’s okay. If the drug companies have been misleading these patients, then they should be held responsible for providing that misinformation. It’s would not be all that different from holding tobacco companies responsible for misleading the public about the benefits and dangers of smoking “light” or “low tar” cigarettes.