It’s official: painkiller abuse kills more people in the U.S. than any other drug. Deaths from overdose exceed those from heroin and cocaine combined.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared that the U.S. is in an epidemic of painkiller abuse. And they say it is the worst drug epidemic in American history.
The Shocking Truth About Painkillers
The CDC traced data back to the early 1990s, when painkiller prescriptions began to spike. There has beena parallel increase in addiction. Prescriptions have almost tripled in the last 20 years and fatal overdoses have exceeded those from heroin and cocaine combined.
Although the US comprises 5% of the global population, it consumes 75% of the world’s supply of painkillers. Leading medical experts have said that the majority of prescriptions for pain medication are unnecessary, ineffective and can lead to addiction.
- More than half of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involve prescription medication.
- In 2011, 1.4 million emergency room visits for drug abuse were caused by prescription drugs (out of 2.5 million ER visits due to all drugs).
- Prescription drug overdoses kill more than 15,000 Americans every year.
Nevada State Senator Richard Segerblom is a staunch supporter of efforts to curb prescription drug abuse. He equates the over-prescription of painkillers to “legalized heroin” because the drugs have similar effects. Many are derived from opium, as is heroin.
A global analysis of illicit drug abuse was conducted for the first time recently and published in The Lancet, a British medical journal. The findings indicate that heroin and popular painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin (Oxycodone) kill more people and create a far larger health burden than illicit drugs like cocaine or marijuana.
A Plan of Action to Combat Painkiller Abuse
One part of the problem with prescription drugs is that they can be obtained legally and are easily accessible. People can fall for the trap that, because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional and dispensed by a registered pharmacist, they are safe. Unfortunately, they are highly addictive. In many cases they are over-prescribed but even continued use for valid medical reasons can lead to addiction.
There are a number of things you can do, regardless of whether you abuse painkillers or not:
- Access to medication. Ensure that your medication is kept in a secure place where nobody else can access it.
- Safe disposal. When you no longer need the medication, follow the guidelines to dispose of any leftovers. Several communities have a take-back program.
- Educate your children. If nothing else, protect your children! Educate them about the dangers of prescription drugs. The internet provides access to tons of information on this subject.
- Seek treatment for abuse. Many thousands of people have received treatment for painkiller abuse and addiction. Many have recovered to once again live happy and fulfilled lives. If you or someone you love is addicted to painkillers, find a treatment and recovery center near you.
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