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$230 Million Opioid Settlement is Welcomed, But More Work is Needed to Address Crisis

New York, NY – In June, Attorney General Letitia James announced a $230 million settlement with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for its role in New York’s ongoing opioid crisis. Overdoses claimed the lives of more than 93,000 people nationwide in 2020 — an all-time high. The New York settlement will go towards treatment and prevention across the state, but it fails to address certain aspects of the opioid crisis.

Ben Kimmel.

Johnson & Johnson is the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The company has chosen to settle claims that it fueled the opioid epidemic. Johnson & Johnson will reportedly no longer sell opioids going forward. 

The settlement, according to James’ office, acknowledges the dangers of prescription medication. But the perils of addiction go far beyond the pharmacy counter. Although the settlement is a step in the right direction,  it does not resolve the street level stigmas associated with the epidemic, nor does it address deadlier synthetics, such as Fentanyl.

According to the CDC:

“Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.”

Fentanyl is a game changer for those in the fight against drug abuse and the opiate epidemic. Although awareness and information is readily available, overdoses continue to skyrocket. So, what can we do? How do we fight back?

The drug problem is far from new. First, we have to put an end to the stigmas and misunderstandings that surround the abuse and misuse of drugs. Additionally, training and mental health first aid classes can offer helpful ways to both identify and engage in difficult discussions with those at risk. 

Secondly, trained use of Narcan or Naloxone can help reverse the effects of opiates in emergencies and save lives.

Finally, if you or someone you know is in need of help, please do not be afraid to reach out and call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357. Representatives at SAMHSA can help you find heroin treatment facilities and support groups. Confidentiality is their standard and operators are standing by.

In closing, it is impossible to pretend that the opioid epidemic is not real. The numbers of overdoses are growing.  Yet, there are still people who claim, “Not in my backyard.” As a reporter and columnist and as a member of the recovery world with more than 30 years clean and sober it is my responsibility to explain that, yes, this is all happening in our backyard. The war is real. Therefore, the need to educate, unite and prepare ourselves is crucial. Better education and training is not only useful in our professional lives, it could also help save someone we love.

No street fight has ever been won fairly, which means the only way to win against this invisible opponent is to fight back from all sides. #thefightforelexis

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com

 

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