Fatalities rise as big pharma profits

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The vicious, often fatal, trap of painkillers usually begins with a prescription to quell pain from some form of injury or medical condition.

■ Muriel Dufresne / Contributed

While drug companies prey on our suffering, the betrayal costs more than just our paychecks.
On July 19, 2018, San Bernardino County filed a lawsuit against multiple drug companies, distributors and pharmacies alleging that their “aggressive and fraudulent” marketing and distribution practices of prescription opioid painkillers have led to a crisis plaguing our nation. “With this lawsuit, our county joins hundreds of counties across the United States in an important effort to hold these companies responsible for their role in creating the opioid epidemic,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Lovingood said.
Nearly 1.2 million prescriptions were written in San Bernardino County last year for opioid medications. Officials said at least 35 people died in 2017 from opioid overdoses, and there were at least 259 non-heroin opioid overdose emergency-department visits, as well as 179 hospitalizations from opioid overdoses.
In 2017, more than 1.5 million prescriptions were written for an opioid medication, at least 125 people died from opioid overdoses and there were at least 309 opioid overdose emergency-department visits and 244 hospitalizations.
The opioid epidemic has reached alarming levels nationwide as well. Studies show that about 9.5 million adults misused opioids in 2014. Over 60 percent of drug-overdose related deaths involved opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. That equates to close to 30,000 deaths and as of 2015 opioid painkiller-related deaths had gone up 575 percent.

What are painkillers
(opioids)?
Prescription painkillers are powerful and addictive drugs that interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain. Most painkillers also produce a “high.”
The most powerful prescription painkillers are called “opioids,” which are synthetic or semi-synthetic opium-like compounds. They are manufactured to react on the nervous system in the same way as drugs derived from the opium poppy, like heroin. The most commonly abused opioid painkillers include oxycodone, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone and propoxyphene.
Oxycodone has the greatest potential for abuse and the greatest dangers. It is as powerful as heroin and affects the nervous system the same way. Oxycodone is sold under many trade names, such as Percodan, Endodan, Roxiprin, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet and OxyContin, and comes in tablet form.
Hydrocodone is used in combination with other chemicals and is available in prescription pain medication as tablets, capsules and syrups. Trade names include Anexsia, Dicodid, Hycodan, Hycomine, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Tussionex and Vicodin.
Meperidine (brand name Demerol) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid) come in tablets and propoxyphene (Darvon) in capsules, but all three have been known to be crushed and injected, snorted or smoked. Darvon, banned in the UK since 2005, is among the top ten drugs reported in drug abuse deaths in the US. Dilaudid, considered eight times more potent than morphine, is often called “drug store heroin” on the streets.
The dangerous effects
of painkillers
Through surveys it has been shown that many people believe that taking prescription drugs is much safer than using illegal street drugs. They do not understand the risk in consuming these highly potent and mind-altering substances. Long-term use of painkillers can lead to dependence. Even people who are prescribed them to relieve a medical condition eventually fall into the trap of abuse and addiction.
In some cases, the dangers of painkillers don’t surface until it is too late. For example, abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl (the same drug that caused the death of the musician Prince in 2016) killed more than 1,000 people in one year.
Last year, 373 people died from Fentanyl in California alone. The drug has been found to be 30–50 times more powerful than heroin.
One of the serious risks of opioids is respiratory depression—high doses can cause breathing to slow down to a point it stops and the user dies.

Mental and physiological effects of painkillers
• Nausea, vomiting, dizziness or confusion.
• Respiratory depression and increased risk of heart attack.
• Coma or unconsciousness.
• Death.
The most commonly prescribed painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin Methadone, Darvocet, Lortab, Lorcet and Percocet), while offering relief from pain, can also cause the body to start “needing” the drugs just to feel “normal.”
Symptoms of withdrawal can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps (known as “cold turkey”), and involuntary leg movements.

A trap disguised as relief
The vicious, often fatal, trap of painkillers usually begins with a prescription to quell pain from some form of injury or medical condition. But like all drugs, painkillers simply mask the problem—they don’t “cure” anything. The user finds himself taking higher and higher doses—only to discover that he cannot make it through the day without the drug. To his own detriment, he becomes a victim of addiction and a source of steady revenue for Big Pharma.

The Solution
The real answer is to get the facts and safeguard yourself, and your future, by not taking drugs in the first place. Consult a doctor for help or alternative solutions to handle any medical condition you may be suffering from.
In the final analysis, drugs harm more than they help. They destroy the body, impair the mind and can take everything from you. Help us educate others and end their destructive grip on our society.
For help or more information, visit us today at drugfreeworld.org or contact us at e-mail: info@drugfreeworld.org • phone: 1-888 NOTODRUGS (1-888-668-6378).

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