A newly published study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine documents how rural America is experiencing a sharp increase in drug-related deaths. The study also found that since 1999, drug-related fatalities in the whole of the United States have gone up by a startling 300%. With so many people losing family members to drug overdoses, there is a serious need for increasing prevention methods and treatment options across the country, particularly in areas that suffer the tolls of addiction the most.
Eighteen years ago, fewer than 5% of all counties across the country had 10 drug-related deaths per every 100,000 people. Nine years ago, 54% of all counties reported 10 deaths per every 10,000 people – all of which were the consequence of drugs. Whereas rates of drug-related deaths grew 297% in urban areas between 1999 and 2008, the rate of rural area drug abuse and overdose grew by nearly 400%.
Many people who become addicted to painkillers or opioids are often first exposed when prescribed painkillers to treat debilitating injuries or illnesses. Opioids are strong drugs, and before a person knows it, they may become chemically dependent and experience symptoms of withdrawal when trying to reduce or stop taking the medication altogether.
Although every person can exhibit different signs or symptoms if they are struggling with drug abuse, common warning signs typically include dilated pupils, chills, sweating, paranoia, hallucinations, changes in behavior or mood, involuntary shaking and tremors, reduced inhibitions, muscle cramping and teeth clenching. Different drugs can induce different reactions in users, but some of the most typical symptoms of opioid use include sedation, itchy or flushed skin, small pupils, respiratory depression, euphoria, analgesia (feeling no pain), nausea and vomiting.
The CDC reports that someone dies from a drug overdose every 10 minutes – this means that over 52,000 people died in 2015 alone. The majority of prescription drug abuse and drug overdoses are the result of opioids, painkillers or heroin. Although most people may believe that drug overdoses are usually the result of illegally obtained narcotics, the truth may be far darker: legally prescribed medications are claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year.
Opioids belong to a class of drugs that affect the central nervous system in order to decrease pain levels. The CDC documented that in 2014, nearly 2 million Americans were abusing or dependent on prescription opioid medications. Opioids are often inappropriately prescribed or overprescribed, and the results can quite literally be deadly.
Opioids, prescription painkillers and heroin cause drug overdoses in the same manner: they can decrease or completely stop a person’s ability to breathe. Each drug depresses the central nervous system, which can cause respiratory arrest and also lead to death. Classic signs of respiratory arrest are cyanosis, or a bluish discoloration of the skin, profuse sweating, irregular heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, restlessness and a loss of consciousness. If you believe you are witnessing a drug overdose, please call 9-1-1 immediately.
Opioids are highly addictive and habit-forming drugs, regardless of what medical condition they are prescribed to treat. In fact, the CDC estimates that at least 1 in 4 people prescribed opioids for non-cancer pain will struggle with drug addiction and dependence. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved opioids (like hydrocone, oxycodone and morphine) for short-term use to alleviate post-surgical pain or to treat pain in patients who have used similar drugs in the past without the intended effects.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is a treatable disease. NIDA has found that the people who most often succeed are the ones who stop using drugs, stay off all drugs and participate actively in their family, work and social lives. NIDA recommends that people with drug addiction go through a detoxification period and then receive treatment, counseling, behavioral therapy and/or medications.
Many cities across the country have drug treatment programs that addicts or alcoholics can attend, free of charge, in order to detox and receive counseling. In order to receive free treatment, an addict will need to meet certain state-mandated qualifications. To find out what criteria exists for state-funded drug and alcohol treatment programs in your area is, please click here: https://alcoholrehab.com/drug-addiction/free-drug-and-alcohol-rehab/.
Drug addiction is a controversial topic, with many people believing it “is” or “isn’t” a disease. Let’s put the controversy aside for a moment and remember the most important thing here: drugs are killing Americans every minute of every day. Throughout rural America, the number of drug-related deaths has increased four-fold and the rate of babies being born who exhibit signs of opiate-withdrawal continues to grow.
Doctors in these rural areas feel unprepared to fight against the increasing rate of addiction and children who are born addicted to drugs. Treatment facilities are few and far between in these areas, unlike in urban ones where they are often abundant. Another contributing factor may be that many people in rural areas work in dangerous – and injury-filled – industries: if they are injured on the job and lack access to physical therapy, using painkillers to treat pain becomes more common.
If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, getting help is possible. There are many different forms of treatment, including in-patient residential treatment, outpatient behavioral treatment, support groups, meetings and many others. To see what resources are available around you, please visit the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors website here: https://nasadad.org/ssa-web-sites/. From there, you can enter which state you live in and find what treatment options are available.
Our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers are experienced in representing victims of serious injury or death due to overprescribed and unsafe prescription drugs. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a free consultation, call us toll free at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.