Opioid Epidemic: A Virtual Road Map

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opioidAfter a protracted legal battle, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Ohio removed the protective order for part of the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System (ARCOS). Experts and the public now have a significantly more precise picture of the opioid epidemic in America. ARCOS is a database maintained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which tracks every pain pill sold in the U.S.

The data gives us a “virtual road map” of the opioid epidemic, according to The Washington Post. The events of the last two decades – skyrocketing addiction, disease transmission, and overdose rates – should leave few Americans doubting that we have a crisis on our hands. However, the revelation that pharmaceutical companies flooded the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone painkillers from 2006 and 2012 should give anyone cause for pause.

Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids sold during that time, and six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills, according to the article. Prescription drug companies pushed a false narrative to doctors and the public about the dangers of opioid narcotics. Entities like Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, claimed that only a small percentage would become addicted.

In recent years, thousands of lawsuits have come about alleging that industry leaders used fraudulent tactics to get patients hooked. Many suits have been settled, but a significantly higher number are still underway. It is still unclear how the outcome of the most substantial civil action in U.S. history will look.

Opioids In Colorado

Big pharma distributed enough opioids to supply every man, woman, and child in America with 36 pills each year. Each state received an unbelievable share of potent and potentially deadly narcotics during that time. West Virginia was provided enough opioids to supply 66.5 per person, the article reports. Not surprisingly, WV also saw the highest opioid death rate during this period.

Several other states were bombarded with prescription opioids too. Kentucky with 63.3, South Carolina with 58, Tennessee with 57.7 and Nevada with 54.7 pills per person. The data reveals that rural counties throughout the country were hit the hardest.

Naturally, rural areas in Colorado fared no better than in other states. ARCOS data indicates that drug companies distributed the highest number of pills per person in southern parts of Colorado, according to CPR. The areas of the state hardest hit include:

  • Alamosa County – 88 pills per person per year
  • Pueblo County – more than 68 pills
  • Otero County – 67 pills
  • Huerfano County – 50 pills

“We issue more prescriptions per capita than anywhere else in the state as an example, or most other places in the state. And we’re one of the small counties,” Keith Goodwin, an Otero County Commissioner. “Are we sicker than everybody else? I don’t think so.”

For comparison, prescription drug companies distributed 19 pills per person per year in Denver County, CPR reports. Adams, Arapahoe, and Boulder counties received above 25 painkillers per person per year.

Judge Dan Polster is overseeing a consolidated case of nearly 2,000 lawsuits, including those of several Colorado cities and counties. The State of Colorado, however, is not part of the consolidated case.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are struggling with opioids, NorthStar Transitions can help you safely detox and take steps to recover. Our licensed and Joint Commission-accredited treatment center serves men, women, and families seeking a robust continuum of care for addiction. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs. 303.558.6400