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Opioid FAQ


What is an opioid?

An opioid is any chemical that binds to the natural opioid receptor system located in the body.  Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Continued use and abuse can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. They come in tablets, capsules, patches or liquid.

Here are commonly used opioids.

  • Methadone – A potent opioid medication commonly used as a pain reliever and also as a medication-assisted therapy for addiction to both heroin and prescription painkillers.
  • Oxycodone – Frequently dispensed as Percocet and OxyContin, oxycodone is the largest prescription responsible for the prescription opioid epidemic, especially in its long-acting version, OxyContin. It is roughly twice as strong as morphine and thus has a similar potency to heroin.
  • Hydrocodone – Pharmacies usually sell this drug as Vicodin, Lorcet, and Lortab. Derived from codeine and about half as strong as oxycodone, hydrocodone is among the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. In fact, it consumes 90% of the world’s hydrocodone supply.
  • Hydromorphone – This drug is more potent than heroin. It can be also known as Dilaudid and is the most potent oral prescription opioid.
  • Fentanyl – However, the most potent prescribed opioid of all is fentanyl (sold as Duragesic). It is a skin patch to treat severe chronic pain. Illicitly produced fentanyl is now found in 90% of seized heroin. Plus, this drug accounts for increased overdose deaths across the country. The high potency contributes to the greater chance of overdose. Plus, the overdose odds increase when individuals use heroin or cocaine with fentanyl.


What is an opiate?

Often people use the term opioid to describe both opiates and opioids. However, these two drugs are not the same. Both opiates and opioids are highly addictive and can make an individual susceptible to dependence and addiction. But, the term opiates technically refers to any drug derived from the opium poppy plant. While some opiates are used in medical practices for pain relief, others are considered Schedule I drugs, or drugs with no acceptable safety use.

Examples of opiates:

  • Morphine – Found in the opium poppy, morphine has been the traditional opiate used to treat moderate to severe pain in the United States for at least 100 years. Medical professionals still commonly prescribe Morphine (MS Contin, among other branded formulations) for post-surgical pain.
  • Codeine – A “weak” painkiller, the liver converts codeine into morphine. Consumers also use it as a cough suppressant.
  • Heroin – The most widely available illicit opiate. Heroin is a major cause of fatal overdoses in the United States. Twice as strong as morphine, from which it is made, it is injected, sniffed or smoked.
  • Opium – It is the oldest opiate. Opium is the milky resin in the poppy plant from which morphine and codeine are extracted. It isn’t used much anymore since the modern opioid is more potent.


How do opioids affect the mind and body?

Opioids bind to receptors on nerve cells in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), gastrointestinal tract and other organs. Then, they act to inhibit the transmission of pain signals. The brain stem has opioid receptors. These control automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure, alertness, and respiration. Opioids can produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and respiratory depression.


Why are prescription opioids addictive?

Prescription opioids, which act on the same brain systems affected by heroin and morphine, can be highly addictive and are often abused. They are most dangerous and addictive when crushed for snorting, injecting them or combining them with alcohol or other sedating drugs. Inhaling or injecting them accelerates their effect on the brain, producing a euphoric “rush” and the desire for more. With repeated use, achieving the same effect will require steadily increasing the dosage. Then, people become addicted to the rush and need a higher dose to achieve it.


How quickly can someone become addicted?

Individual genetics, environmental factors and the type of opioid drug consumed influence addiction risk. The speed of addiction increases with the pharmacological potency of the drug and length of use. Someone can become addicted after just a few days. Even a one-day opioid prescription carries a 6% risk of addiction. Opioids that are taken briefly and as the doctor prescribed for acute pain are less likely to result in addiction than opioids taken recreationally or for the treatment of chronic pain.


What percentage of patients prescribed opioids become addicted?

Studies report a wide range in the percentage of patients who become dependent on prescription opioids. However, in some cases, researchers report the rate of addiction to opioid prescriptions is as high as 30%.


How does combining opioids with benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax affect the user?

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants used to sedate, induce sleep, prevent seizures, and relieve anxiety. Mixing opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines significantly increase the risk of overdose. The FDA requires a “Black Box Warning”, the most serious warning, alerting prescribers and patients to the dangers of combining them.


What are the signs of addiction?

The clinical Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines addiction as follows:

  • Taking the opioid in larger amounts and for longer than intended
  • Wanting to cut down or quit but not being able to do it
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the opioid
  • A strong desire or craving
  • Chronic inability to carry out major obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued use despite problematic social and interpersonal consequences
  • Stopping or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities
  • Recurrent use in physically hazardous situations
  • Consistent use of opioids despite acknowledgment of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological consequences
  • The need for markedly increased amounts to achieve intoxication or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
  • Withdrawal symptoms or use of the substance to avoid them.


Do I Have an Opioid Drug Injury Case?

The details of your circumstances will dictate whether you have an opioid claim. An initial consultation with a lawyer at the Michael Brady Lynch Firm can tell you if you have a case. In general, some of the questions we may ask to determine if you or a loved one has an those who are likely to have an opioid drug injury case can include:

  • Did a medical professional prescribe you an opioid medication?
  • Was it prescribed for a condition other than cancer?
  • Is the prescription less than 10 years old?
  • Did you not use heroin before a medical professional prescribed you an opioid?
  • Did you or a loved one die from an opioid-induced overdose?
  • After using the opioid did you become addicted and needed treatment?
  • Did you use an opioid during your pregnancy?
  • Was your child born with a defect from opioid use during your pregnancy?


How Soon Do I Have to File an Opioid Claim?

There are strict deadlines for filing an opioid drug injury claim, and the deadline that applies to your case will depend on an examination of the facts surrounding your case, including: :

  • When the drug-related injuries occurred
  • Where the drug-related injuries occured, and
  • The jurisdiction where we file your case


How Can an Attorney Help Me with an Opioid Claim?

Our attorneys are extremely helpful and knowledgeable when standing up to negligent pharmaceutical companies. We can:

  • Inform you of the law and available legal remedies
  • Collect evidence to support your opioid drug injury case
  • Manage all of the court paperwork and deadlines that are necessary to keep your case moving forward
  • Vigorously advocate on your behalf throughout the course of your case
  • Fight to help you obtain all of the compensation you deserve.

As you concentrate on your physical and psychological recovery, you can rely on The Michael Brady Lynch Firm to oversee your financial recovery and bring your case to the best possible resolution.

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