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DOJ’s Opioid Lawsuit Against Walmart Highlights Painkiller Addiction Prevention Issues

Last month the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit against retail giant Walmart for what it claims is the organization’s contribution to the American opioid painkiller addiction crisis. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that there were 72,224 drug overdose deaths in 2020, nearly 48,000 of which were directly attributable to opioid abuse. The DOJ suit alleges that Walmart contributed to these and previous years’ figures by allowing its network of pharmacies to fill millions of prescriptions for opioids, thousands of which authorities said were suspicious.

Plaintiffs claim that Walmart was fully aware that their system for detecting questionable prescriptions was flawed, and cite numerous examples in which employees warned federal authorities and company managers about suspicious scripts. The suit is the latest in a series of examples of corporate scrutiny as a means of opioid addiction prevention and accountability. The Sackler Family, owners of OxyContin® manufacturer Purdue Pharma, has paid billions of dollars in damages to multiple states in similar suits. Some critics want them to face criminal charges, as well.

While these may seem like abstract legal matters, the fact is that pharmacies, doctors’ office and other everyday venues have a direct role to play in opioid painkiller addiction prevention.

Identifying and Addressing Painkiller Abuse in Your Life

The legal, albeit restricted, availability of painkillers has blurred the lines between legitimate use and abuse. This paves the way for behavioral deception not just at the doctor’s office and pharmacy, but also in the home, family and workplace. If there’s one thing the documents in the Walmart lawsuit have revealed, it’s just how possible it is to obtain an opioid prescription. Data from the CDC indicates that in 2019, the dispensing rate for opioid painkillers was 46.7 prescriptions per 100 persons (total of more than 153 million opioid prescriptions), and this is after a 14-year decline.

If you think your loved one is abusing their prescription painkillers, it may be easier than you realize for them to get their supply through doctor shopping and pharmacy manipulation. A multi-university study indicates that rates of doctor shopping in the United States may be as high as 56 percent. Some signs your loved one may doctor-shopping include:

  • Paying for Medical Visits in Cash
  • Frequently Faking Illnesses
  • Going to Urgent Care Centers or Pain Management Clinics Instead of Primary Care Physicians
  • Complaining about Medications Not Working
  • Looking for Doctors Outside of Your Immediate Area
  • Lying to Doctors about Symptoms

It helps to coordinate as much as possible with your loved one’s doctor to keep an eye on their prescription use and dispensation. While this may be hard because of confidentiality issues, make sure to let them know if your loved one is exhibiting any suspicious behavior regarding their prescription painkiller use.

How Can I Prevent Pain Pill Addiction for My Loved One?

If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with painkiller addiction, they’re not likely to readily admit it. This is why it’s important to look for behavioral indicators, including but not limited to:

  • Getting Annoyed or Irritable When Asked about their Painkiller Use
  • Watching the Clock between Doses
  • Asking Other People about their Unused Doses
  • Claiming They Need to Keep Using Past When their Doctor Told Them
  • Insisting That Their Current Dose Isn’t Strong Enough
  • Dishonesty and Deception about their Use

If your loved one is exhibiting these signs, it may be time to talk to other members of your family about organizing an intervention.

Treatment for Painkiller Addiction

While many broad factors like doctor-shopping, inadequate pharmacy system protections and others can hinder effective painkiller addiction prevention, only proper treatment can help you or your loved one overcome its impact. Recovery Unplugged understands the impact of improper or inadequate safeguards against opioid abuse, and we are prepared to help you or your loved one if this issue has impacted you. We offer effective and compassionate medically supervised detox and withdrawal management as well as comprehensive behavioral rehab to help you reclaim your life from painkiller addiction. Don’t spend another second suffering on your own. There is no shame in asking for help. Contact our admissions team today to start your recovery.

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