The Odds of Dying from an Opioid Overdose now Greater than Dying in a Car Accident

January 26, 2019 by Barry Zlotowicz Law Firms 

The Odds of Dying from an Opioid Overdose now Greater than Dying in a Car Accident

dying from an opioid overdoseFor the first time in history, the odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident are now lower than the odds of dying from an opioid overdose. This according to a new report published this week by The National Safety Council.

And yet, despite the increasing awareness of the opioid epidemic, the public’s perception of opioid addiction remains inconsistent with reality.  The majority of the public refuses to accept the medical industry’s general consensus that opioid addiction is a disease.

It is true that a large portion of opioid abuse stems from experimental use.  Often overlooked, however, are those whose addictions arise involuntarily.  The most common example of this are addictions that develop involuntarily through prescription painkillers prescribed to patients following an injury.

Consider that in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have his or her own bottle of pills.

Think about that for a second. 259 million opioid/pain killer prescriptions.

Often, these injuries are the result of being involved in an automobile accident.  A study conducted in Australia found that among chronic pain patients in a pain management program, those being treated for pain following a car accident injury were the most likely of all patients to abuse opioids.

The authors attribute the higher rate of opioid addiction among car accident victims to two key factors.  First, those that suffer injuries are commonly treated with prescription pain medication.  Second, post-traumatic stress disorder is common among car accident victims.  The trauma leads to depression which fuels the use of opioids as a form of self-medication.

Fortunately, politicians are beginning to take notice of the widespread prescription drug problem in this country.  Illinois has been one of the more active states in enacting legislation to curtail the opioid epidemic.

In 2017, Illinois released its State Opioid Action Plan along with Executive Order 2017-05.  The Order created the Governor’s Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force in September of 2017.  And just his past year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2777 amending the Illinois Controlled Substance Act.  The most significant provision of the Bill requires medical professionals to take 3 hours of continuing education to learn how to safely prescribe opioid medications.

The legislation seeks to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions being written by health care providers.  The belief is that the health care industry serves a “gate-keeper” function.  By exposing less patients to opioids, many involuntary addictions can be eliminated.  This in turn will help to reduce the record number of accidental opioid overdose cases in the United States.

A large number of our auto accident clients have taken opioids after being injured in an accident. The opioid use may have started with a prescription for back pain shortly after the accident or the medication could have been prescribed later like after a surgical procedure.

In 2017, I personally had surgery to repair an injury to my right elbow. I was on pain medication for 7 days – just 7 days. When I tried to get off the medication, I felt ill. I was shaky and agitated. It took 2 to 3 days for me to feel myself mentally. I can only imagine how hard it is to get off opioid pain killers after taking them for an extended period.

If you have been involved in a car accident, make sure you understand the risks associated with prescription opioid use.  A short-term solution can turn into a long-term problem that can have life-threatening consequences.  Be sure to discuss your safety concerns and alternative treatment options with your healthcare provider.

To speak with an attorney about this issue, contact me at 847-305-4105.


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