Addiction: Is it a Disease or a Choice?
The controversy over whether addiction is a disease or a choice is important for those who work with substance abuse and who struggle with addiction.
Four years ago, a couple went out for a drive, only to wind up in an accident. The wife was prescribed opioids to cope with the pain from a car accident and ended up suffering from a drug addiction.
The wife, pregnant at the time of addiction, gave birth to a child suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. NAS is a disease caused by opioids that results in withdrawal symptoms in babies born addicted to a drug they were exposed to in the womb. NAS can cause many problems later on in life, such as ADHD or cognitive deficits.
Disturbed by the news of their newborn’s potentially disadvantaged future, Tyler Roach sought out attorney Scott Bickford to sue the opioid manufacturers who caused his wife’s opioid addiction.
Kanwakjeet J.S. “Sunny” Anand, a professor of pediatrics that is involved in the case has shed some light on how common the Roaches situation really is. One infant suffering from NAS is hospitalized every hour in the US, while between one and six births out of 1,000 every year has been affected by the intake of opioids during pregnancy.
Tragically, this issue isn’t new. Deaths of overdoses from opioids have quadrupled since 1999 in the US alone, while around 2.1 million Americans have suffered from disorders due to opioid prescriptions. The war on drugs in America has been rapidly increasing, making it difficult to pinpoint just which manufacturers are at fault for so much suffering.
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With so many companies manufacturing drugs for consumers in need, along with eight cartels supervising distribution of opioids from Mexico to the US, finding out the truth of just who is responsible for the Roaches case, among the many other NAS cases is almost impossible.
So how will this lawsuit track down the culprit?
While the other 49 US states base their legal system on English Common Law, Louisiana runs its legal system according to French Civil Law. The state’s civil law code allows citizens of Louisiana, or in this case the parish where the suit was filed, to come together in trial to fight against the dangers caused by opioid manufacturers.
Once the lawsuit was brought to the attention of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, they fought back. They did not agree with the blame, stating “Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated.” Yet, the DEA has fined the group almost $200 million for “questionable distribution” this year alone, and it’s only March.
This type of lawsuit is a meandering epidemic, making it only a small part of 350 similar lawsuits against opioid manufacturing corporations within the past two years alone. Considering the large number of similar lawsuits, each of which individually creates vast amount of discovery, the courts chose to combine these cases into a class act lawsuit known as a Multidistrict Litigation or MDL.
If nothing else, the MDL creates one center for handling all of the documents and exchange of information.
MDL takes away the extensive discovery process and exhibits “test cases” before coming to any thoughts about further trials or settlement.
In the Louisiana case, they intend to keep the matter within the state rather than a federal MDL, providing the potential for billions of dollars in favor of the plaintiffs of the parish. Winning the case would provide funds for Medicare programs, as well as relapse and prevention treatment to those affected.
The lawsuit is supported by many public health professionals who are planning long-term care for the plaintiffs. This care especially consists of detoxification programs, also known as the first step in recovery.
The resolution and length of the case is not yet predicted; however, many anticipate a positive new beginning for the victims in need.