The poppy, also known as Papaver somniferum, is a flowering plant that grows in various warm-weather countries in the wild. Historians have found mentions of poppies in artifacts from the earliest known civilization in Mesopotamia, Sumer, dating back some 6,000 years ago, particularly the Sumerian people’s utilization of poppies in making opium.
People have long used opium for recreational, religious and medicinal purposes. In the past two centuries, chemists exploring the possibilities of the plant’s properties have made quite a few important discoveries, resulting in more potent and versatile drugs. One such class of painkilling drugs is referred to as opioids.
What do opioids do?
The poppy plant grows roughly one to one-and-a-half feet tall over a few weeks’ time. Before it flowers, farmers score the bulbs atop poppy plants and wait about a day for its sap to be excreted. Workers then collect the naturally-occurring latex-like substance and allow it to dry. The resulting gummy substance is dried, transported to markets and then consumed in various ways.
Opioids block pain signals in the brain to make dealing with both chronic and acute pain much easier. Further, opioids also release feel-good chemicals like dopamine in the brain, making people high. Unfortunately, using opioids every day for just a few weeks causes users to become sick without them and suffer from mental health problems.
Opioid users become hooked either because they don’t want to face withdrawal symptoms, deal with physical or mental health problems without them, or a combination of the two. Over time, they must use higher doses to feel the same effects, resulting in a never-ending cycle of behaviors that often harm users themselves.
What is the opioid crisis?
We have always known that opioids are addictive, no matter what particular type of opioid is used. In the mid- to late-1800s, morphine was all the rage across the United States. In the late 1890s, Bayer developed heroin and marketed it as a non-addictive, just-as-good substitute to morphine. In actuality, heroin was just as addictive and caused as many problems as morphine.
In the early 1990s, pharmaceutical companies in the United States formulated several kinds of opioid medications that were supposedly non-addictive. As history indicated, these opioids would end up acting the same as all other opioids. Executives purposefully overlooked this fact and pushed addictive opioids to doctors, pharmacists, unions, government agencies, and consumers.
Up until the mid-2010s, opioid prescriptions steadily rose in the United States.
Here’s why we have an opioid crisis
As opioid prescriptions from doctors decrease under pressure from regulatory agencies and policy makers, users turn to illegal sources to find opioids. Since the black market is unregulated, it’s not possible for users to know what they’re getting. As such, adulterants can cause serious harm to users. One of the most common adulterants is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is many times more potent than heroin and prescription painkillers. Using one too many salt grains’ worth of fentanyl too many can result in fatal overdose.
Further, users are pushed to commit crime to maintain opioid use because the price of them on the black market is much higher than what opioids cost at pharmacies.
Combating pharmaceutical companies’ blatant mistreatment of opioids can successfully be done by suing them in in court, causing them to pay restitution to people they misled and encouraging the U.S. government to put harsh laws into place to prevent another company from introducing a “non-addictive” opioid to the market. Currently the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, is being sued by the state of Massachusetts on behalf of their residents for Purdue Pharma’s participation in a scheme to pressure doctors to prescribe OxyContin as a painkiller, even when it was unnecessary.
Tate Law Group has also been in the vanguard of representation for government and healthcare agencies who are bringing suit against various pharmaceutical companies, seeking damages that will compensate victims of opioid issues.