Opioid Overdoses and Brain Injuries

Team Divider-2.jpg

The opioid epidemic is one of the most serious crises to sweep the United States in recent years. One little-known effect of opioid overdoses is traumatic brain injury. 

The Brain Injury Association of Virginia warns permanent brain damage is a real and life-changing consequence of an opioid overdose.   

Powerful opioids are depressants. That means the drugs slow down the breathing of the person who takes them. An overdose causes the body to forget to breathe on its own. The consequences can be disastrous for the victim of an overdose. They include hypoxia when the brain suffers a lack of oxygen, or anoxia when it receives no oxygen.  

Signs of Brain Injuries During Opioid Overdoses 

Seconds count during overdoses. The longer the brain is deprived of oxygen, the more serious the consequences of the oxygen loss. Permanent brain damage occurs in just 3-5 minutes of the brain losing oxygen. People who suffer these injuries face serious impairment. 

Unlike traumatic brain injury, the whole of the brain rather than a portion of it is affected. Opioid overdoses that cause brain injuries can cause the following effects: 

·       Problems with concentration;

·       Short-term memory loss;

·       Issues with balance and coordination;

·       Vision or hearing loss;

·       Difficulty doing everyday things like getting dressed;

·       Depression, confusion, anger, and irritability;

·       Issues in writing and communicating 

Opioid Overdoses and Brain Injuries Are on the Rise 

Over the last few years, the number of overdoses from opiates and other drugs has spiked. The Media Research Center reported that drug overdoses overtook motor vehicle accident fatalities nationwide for the first time recently. Moves to restrict opiate overdoses saw an upsurge in the use of heroin. 

In the two decades since 1999, about 200,000 Americans have died from a prescription drug overdose. More people started using heroin in response to efforts by lawmakers to restrict overprescribing, shopping for doctors, and the sale of opioids via online pharmacies. As prescription drug overdoses fell from 2010 to 2015, the number of heroin overdoses tripled.  

Opioids are synthetic pills originating from the poppy plant. Examples include Fentanyl, heroin, and prescription opioid painkillers. Synthetic opioids are among the most dangerous and addictive drugs. Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate, is 25 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, which is a semi-synthetic drug. 

What is Toxic Brain Injury? 

The Brain Injury Association of America notes the term Toxic Brain Injury was first coined during the opioid epidemic. It’s a brain injury that occurs from prolonged substance misuse and a non-deadly overdose. Hypoxic brain injury occurs when the brain fails to receive sufficient oxygen. Anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain receives no oxygen. The amount of time the brain is deprived of oxygen dictates the severity of the injury. 

Toxic Brain Injury may disrupt the supply of nutrients required by brain tissue. It can cause injury, and the death of brain cells, including neurotransmitter receptors. Toxic brain injury can alter chemical concentrations in the brain, including hormones and neurotransmitters. 

The condition can deprive the brain tissue of oxygen. The extent of devastation to the brain will depend on the seriousness of the overdose and how long the brain was deprived of oxygen for.  

The Brain Injury Association of America states people with a prior history of substance misuse before their brain injury are 10 times more likely to resume past behavior. It is highlighting the importance of treating brain injury and addiction together. 

People who suffer from TBIs and substance abuse may not realize the link between both conditions. Often they fail to seek help for the two issues. However, parallel treatments are often helpful. 

Opioid Overdoses Spark Lawsuits 

Many big drug companies are facing lawsuits over the opioid epidemic. Recently, NPR reported an upsurge in litigation in 2019. Thousands of local and state governments are demanding that companies like Purdue Pharma, Rite-Aid and Walmart compensate them for the costs of responding to the opioid crisis. They are seeking to get companies to reveal far more internal documents, detailing what they previously knew about the risks of prescription pain medications. 

People whose loved ones suffered overdoses after they became addicted to prescribed opiates may have grounds to sue the big drug companies. Although litigation has a lot way to play out, the devastating impacts of opioids on lives is not in doubt. Lawsuits are already underway over well-known opioids like OxyContin.  

At the Smith Law Center, our attorneys have taken big drug manufacturers to trial. Please call us today for a free consultation at 757.244.7000.