Prescription Opioid Crisis in America

For years, local and state governments, along with the healthcare world, have come to understand the devastating impact of opioid over-prescription, misuse, abuse, dependence and addiction. Now, the opioid crisis is being viewed as a National Emergency, as declared by the U.S. President. The United States statistics[i] behind this declaration are dire and appear to be getting worse:

  • There are nearly 100 deaths per day from opioids
  • Over 2 million people are suffering from dependence on prescription pain medications
  • Over 122,000 teenagers suffer from an addiction to prescription pain pills
  • In 2016, 60,000 people died in the U.S. from drug overdoses
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death for people under 50
  • Emergency Room visits for misusing prescription opioids nearly doubled between 2005 and 2014
  • Sales of prescription opioids tripled between 1991 and 2011
  • 80% of new heroin users began by misusing prescription opioids
  • More than 1/3 of the population took prescription opioids in 2015
  • There were 259 million prescriptions written for opioids in 2012

Consider this last statistic for a moment: There were 259 million opioid prescriptions in 2012. The total adult population of the United States (over 18 years of age) in 2012 was 240.4 million. So, on average, there was more than one opioid prescription written and filled for every adult in this country. These prescriptions were for painkillers in the same class of drugs as heroin, yet these drugs were widely and sometimes recklessly prescribed and dispensed.

There are many claims that pharmaceutical companies largely drove this trend by massive marketing efforts to both the public and to healthcare providers.

This opioid crisis has led many individuals, municipalities and states to file lawsuits against the makers of opioid drugs for deceptive or negligent marketing practices and failure to warn of the high risks of dependence and addiction.

Prescription opioids are similar to heroin and morphine in how they chemically react with nerve cells in the brain and the nervous system. These medications can produce feelings of pleasure and well-being in addition to relieving the perception of pain. The risk of dependency is high with opioids because, once ingested, they rapidly travel to the area of the brain associated with reward; and, therefore, can create a sense of euphoria that the brain learns and wants to replicate. Dangerous prescription opioids include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Percocet
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Norco
  • Fentanyl

If you have lost a family member within the last two years as the result of an addiction to prescription painkillers, you may want to talk to a personal injury attorney about an opioid lawsuit. Please call Brett Oppenheimer at (502) 242-8877 or fill out the contact form on this website. Brett will provide you with a free consultation on your potential case.


These statistics came from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures); Edward Luce. The Financial Times Ltd 2017, “Trump Needs More than Fire and Fury to Defeat US Opioid Addiction”;