Dallas attorney Jeff Simon, who has spent years litigating toxic tort and pharmaceutical injury cases, views the nation’s problem with opioids differently than other drug battles he’s waged.
It is the “largest drug epidemic in my lifetime,” he told members of the Rotary Club of Park Cities.
Simon, a founding partner of Simon Greenstone Panatier, presented “The Cost of Living High: America’s Opioid Epidemic” recently at Maggiano’s Little Italy in NorthPark Center.
Most cases of heroin addiction are started due to someone being prescribed an opioid for pain, he said, explaining it only takes seven days for someone to become addicted to opioids.
“It costs $700,000 per person to treat someone for addiction, but $20 to get another hit of heroin,” he said.
What happens in the body that causes addiction?
Simon explained that the drug releases dopamine, something bodies make naturally, and carries the synthetic endorphins into pain receptors. So when people become tolerant to the drug, their bodies stop making dopamine.
The lack of dopamine is what causes them to go through withdrawal when taken off of the prescribed medication, he said.
Simon blames the epidemic on corporate misconduct and governmental complacency.
Regulators were slow to act when drug manufacturers began advertising the drugs for use in other than short-term controlled settings immediately following surgery, he said.
How widespread is the problem locally?
Simon said 460 million pills had been sold in Dallas county alone.
While he, as a lawyer, focuses on holding companies accountable, he said more must be done.
“Litigation alone will not solve this problem.” -Jeff Simon
He suggested these measures:
- Having better coverage for addiction treatment will make it more accessible.
- Making naloxone, an emergency treatment for narcotic overdoses, more accessible to EMTs, police officers, and teachers. If they encounter someone going through withdrawals, they will be able to help them survive it.
- Ensuring that opioid prescriptions are limited to three days will decrease the number of people becoming addicted to opioids.
- Requiring that practitioners participate in a prescribing monitoring program so they can make sure their patients don’t become dependent on the drug. Only 40% of practitioners in Texas use it.
Simon also urges compassion for addicts.
Criminalizing people who are victims to addiction will not make it easier for those who are struggling, he said. “This is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue.”