Types of Dangerous Drugs
Hardly a day goes by without the news featuring some mention of dangerous drugs. The type of drug involved in these news stories varies, however. Some days the story is about illegal drugs like methamphetamine or cannabis, and other days it’s about the misuse of prescription drugs like opioids.
Still other days, the stories concern over-the-counter drugs being recalled for having dangerous side effects.
While many no longer consider alcohol and tobacco as drugs, they are, in fact, the drugs that lead to the most injuries and deaths in the United States. Just because these two drugs have been legal for most of American history, it doesn’t change the fact that they lead to a number of health problems including cancer, liver failure, and thousands of auto accidents every year.
All of these categories of drugs can be dangerous — and even deadly — if misused.
In the U.S., prescription drugs also pose a high level of danger, especially when used improperly. There are few families in the country that haven’t been impacted by the drug overdose epidemic tied to opioids. Drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl were developed to help with pain management, but the widespread over-prescription of these drugs led to unprecedented addiction and overdose deaths.
In recent years — due in no small part to efforts by the drug manufacturers — opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone were heavily prescribed and used. When these prescriptions were exhausted, the patients would often be addicted.
Many of these addicted patients would turn to illicit sources once the prescriptions ran out, switching to illegal pills or even heroin. Tragically, a lot of the oxycodone pills available illegally were actually laced with fentanyl — a substance hundreds of times more powerful. As a result, the number of fatal overdoses tied to opioids skyrocketed.
Another category of prescription drugs that have proved dangerous is benzodiazepines. These sedative medications like Xanax and Valium were prescribed to help with anxiety and insomnia.
Benzodiazepines have a risk of addiction and overdose on their own, but, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, this risk increases exponentially when these drugs are used in conjunction with opioids.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs
Just because a drug is sold over the counter doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially harmful. Cough and cold medicines are frequently misused in ways that can be dangerous — the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a warning against social media trends like cooking chicken in NyQuil, for example.
Another possible danger of OTC medicine is when a side effect is found after it’s already been on the market for some time. This can lead to injuries, recalls, and, eventually, product liability lawsuits.
Dealing With Dangerous Drugs
The way that we handle dangerous drugs depends on the category they fall into. We tend to hold individuals responsible for the harm they cause while under the influence of any drug. When illegal drugs are involved, law enforcement further penalizes individuals for possessing or using the drugs and anyone involved in making or distributing them.
Penalties for making or selling dangerous drugs that are entirely legal are often left to regulators, lawmakers, and civil litigation. Dangerous drug lawsuits are among the only ways that makers and sellers of legal drugs that hurt people can be held accountable for their negligent or willful harm.
Dangerous Drug Lawsuits
If you or a loved one has suffered from taking a dangerous drug that was later recalled or the subject of litigation, you may be able to file a product liability or other type of lawsuit to be compensated.
You should be able to trust healthcare professionals and the guidance of government agencies like the drug enforcement administration (DEA) and FDA. When companies mislead or conceal dangers from patients, doctors, and the government, they must be held accountable.
If you were harmed by a prescription or over-the-counter drug, our team at LawFirm.com can provide a free consultation to see if you are eligible to pursue compensation with the assistance of a dangerous drug lawyer.
Big Tobacco Lawsuits
Starting as early as the 1950s, a link between smoking and lung cancer led to a series of lawsuits. Smokers filed suit against tobacco companies claiming that they had either failed to warn of the dangers of smoking or that they had violated consumer protections.
Tobacco companies won these early suits, claiming that smokers assumed the risk of cancer by choosing to smoke.
Similar arguments continued to work for the major tobacco companies until the 1990s when company documents were leaked. These documents showed that tobacco companies were aware of the highly addictive nature of tobacco.
Also around this time, state attorneys general filed claims against the tobacco companies. The states (along with the District of Columbia and U.S. territories) argued that smoking led to significant cost to the public by contributing to health problems that the states had to pay to treat.
In 1998, four of the biggest tobacco companies agreed to a settlement that resulted in:
- Limitations on how tobacco could be advertised
- Payments of at least $206 billion to the states for smoking-related costs
- The creation of the National Public Education Foundation — an organization that works to reduce youth smoking and combat smoking-related diseases
- The dissolution of tobacco industry organizations
Since then, class actions and individual lawsuits have moved forward. It’s expected that a similar wave of litigation may be coming concerning vaping products like e-cigarettes.
Elmiron is a drug used to treat a specific bladder disorder called interstitial cystitis. This condition causes pain and discomfort in the bladder, and Elmiron is the only drug currently on the market to treat this condition.
There were no warnings included with Elmiron concerning the patient’s eyes, but recent studies have shown a correlation between long-term use of Elmiron and vision problems like maculopathy, retinopathy, and limited vision or blindness.
The first of these lawsuits is currently in litigation.
Opioids (Hydrocodone and OxyContin)
The opioid crisis began with doctors prescribing high doses of opioids for even relatively minor pain management issues. Rather than prescribing other, safer analgesic (pain-relieving) medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen, doctors were prescribing hydrocodone and oxycontin.
These opioids were highly addictive and easily led patients to substance abuse. When prescriptions ran out, patients sometimes sought other related drugs. Illegal pills were sold in the same way as those available through prescription but were often laced with synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
Every day in the United States, 115 people die from an opioid overdose.
Lawsuits holding the makers and distributors of various opioids responsible for the epidemic are ongoing. So far, Perdue Pharma — maker of OxyContin—and its owners, the Sackler family, has settled with 24 states while Johnson & Johnson has settled with 14 states for more than $26 billion.
It isn’t just prescription drugs that can lead to recalls and lawsuits. Sometimes, over-the-counter drug use can also be dangerous if the companies selling the product fail to disclose side effects. When this happens, the increased accessibility of this type of drug can mean the problem impacts many more people.
Zantac — and its active ingredient, ranitidine — has been found to contain N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a likely cancer-causing agent according to the FDA. Because the warning labels on ranitidine products never included a risk of cancer, the makers of these drugs are now subject to lawsuits.
- Bladder cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Stomach cancer
How to Choose a Dangerous Drug Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a dangerous drug, finding the right lawyer to take on your case might be the most important decision you make. After all, having a strong case won’t matter if the law firm you’re working with doesn’t know what it’s doing.
When you’re deciding which dangerous drug lawyer to work with, consider the following:
- Do they have experience with dangerous drug lawsuits? You should only work with a law firm that has successfully represented clients in similar cases.
- Were they successful in dangerous drug suits? Success in a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean winning a big verdict. Most lawsuits are settled rather than reaching a verdict, so ask about settlements as well as verdicts in cases like yours. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to former and current clients — client testimonials can be invaluable in choosing the right law firm for you.
- Will they charge you money upfront? Many of the best dangerous drug lawyers take on cases that they feel strongly about and are confident they can resolve to their client’s satisfaction. Therefore they work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they won’t charge you for any of their services or other costs unless they get you compensated. Being charged for a consultation or billed by the hour for dangerous drug lawsuits is rare and may be a red flag.
- Do they have the national presence to take on any case? Drug manufacturers may be held accountable in a variety of jurisdictions. You should try to find a law firm that can travel and communicate with you as the client while also being able to pursue justice in the most favorable venue possible.
Filing a Dangerous Drugs Lawsuit
If you or a loved one has suffered from side effects or other issues related to prescription or over-the-counter drugs, treatment for side effects or addiction is not the only way to find help. You may also be able to file a lawsuit against the company that made the dangerous drug.
The first step in filing a dangerous drug lawsuit is finding a legal team with experience and a track record of success. Every one of the law firms that works with LawFirm.com on dangerous drug lawsuits has a track record of success helping clients like you all over the U.S.
FAQs About Dangerous Drugs
What are the classifications of dangerous drugs?
Under federal law, drugs and other controlled substances are divided into five categories called “schedules” depending on the drug’s dangers and potential medical benefits.
- Schedule I drugs have no currently accepted medical application and have a high potential for abuse. These include heroin, LSD, and cannabis.
- Schedule II drugs are those with a high potential for abuse or addiction but with some potential medical value. Examples of schedule II drugs are cocaine, OxyContin, and Adderall.
- Schedule III drugs are drugs or other substances with moderate to low potential for addiction like anabolic steroids or supplemental testosterone.
- Schedule IV drugs are those with medical value and low risk of addiction, including Xanax, Ambien, and Valium.
- Schedule V drugs are deemed to have a low potential for addiction and consist of substances that contain small quantities of certain narcotics. This includes cough medicine containing codeine, for example.
What do dangerous drug lawyers do?
Dangerous drug lawyers represent clients in civil cases concerning inaccurately labeled medicine, poorly made drugs, or incorrectly prescribed drugs. They may take on these matters as personal injury claims, product liability claims, or even fraud claims.
If you or a loved one is charged with a crime involving a dangerous drug, you should look for an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What is the difference between dangerous drug abuse and drug misuse?
The distinction between drug abuse and drug misuse doesn’t reflect a difference in risk — abusing or misusing drugs can be dangerous or even fatal.
According to the FDA, drug abuse is the use of drugs without a prescription or for reasons unrelated to treatment. For example, even if a person had a valid prescription for an opioid, they would be abusing the drug if they purposefully took higher amounts than indicated or combined it with other substances.
Drug misuse, on the other hand, is what happens when a person is treating themselves but not according to the instructions on the package or from a doctor. For example, if you are still awake after taking a prescription sleeping pill so you take another when it’s only been one hour. If the instructions tell you to only take one every 8–12 hours, that’s drug misuse.