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There is a great deal of conjecture and debate about who is responsible for the opiate addiction epidemic that is plaguing this country. Some point the finger at doctors who irresponsibly prescribe addictive drugs; others say it is the lack of understanding on the part of the consumer.
But Delray Beach, Florida – the city itself – says that the blame lies squarely with drug manufacturers, and they have hired a lawyer to help them bring their case. Based on alleged deceptive marketing practices, Delray Beach is seeking damages for the consequences of the opiate drug epidemic that is pounding South Florida.
Specifically, Mayor Cary Glickstein would like to recoup the loss of tax dollars spent managing the epidemic. For example, about $2,000 is spent every time the city responds to an overdose call, and that doesn’t include the cost of extended stays in the hospital after such a call or other costs associated with addiction, such as increased crime rates, increased hazardous waste on the beaches and public spaces (e.g., discarded hypodermic needles), and other healthcare and law enforcement/court costs.
Said Mayor Glickstein: “Cities are firmly within their rights to seek restitution for past, present and future costs of an addicted population in large measure precipitated through fraud, deception and negligence.”
But it is not just the drug manufacturers that are in the city’s sights but drug wholesalers as well. Delray Beach alleges that drug wholesalers did not abide by federal law and report suspicious orders of opiate painkillers.
This will not be a quick fight, however it may turn out. It will likely take years for the courts to come to judgment, but the law firm is willing to champion the cause. They have agreed to front all costs in return for 25 percent of the ordered damages in addition to the costs they incur in the course of the case, according to the city agreement.
Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 250 percent increase in overdoses in Delray Beach alone. That is, 195 people were treated for drug overdose in 2015 in Delray Beach; in 2016, that number rose to 690. It is likely that in 2017, the numbers will be even higher. In the first six months of the year, 412 overdoses were called in on behalf of Delray Beach residents. Additionally, Palm Beach County had the highest number of opiate overdose deaths in the state in 2015. It is clearly a serious issue and one that is only continuing to grow.
It is clear that Delray Beach’s lawsuit is not a frivolous one designed to create headlines and grab attention. Rather, it is an attempt to procure the funds necessary to help people who are now struggling with opiate use and abuse, and continue to provide services for a growing population of people in crisis.
In the meantime, more and more people are dying due to opiate overdose in Palm Beach County and across the state. As we search for the right people to hold responsible, we must also come together to address the problem proactively. There are people who are in desperate need of treatment and people who may be on the precipice of developing an addiction that could be life-threatening. There is a great deal being done to increase awareness of the hazards of using any street drug as well as an increased understanding of how dangerous it can be to take prescription painkillers frivolously.
For families who are trying to help a loved one overcome addiction and avoid overdose, the most immediate action should be connecting with a treatment program that will provide their loved one with the resources they need to stop using all drugs and alcohol and to begin to create a new life in recovery. This means finding a rehab program that offers:
Does your loved one need you to help them connect with treatment services that can save their life?