Submitted on Wed, 2015-06-17
By SMART Health Claims

2.1 million people in the US suffer from substance use related to prescription opioid pain relievers

“With America awash in opioids for the foreseeable future, health care providers and public officials are searching for ways to help get addicts clean.”– Time Magazine

Prescription drug abuse is now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, officially classified as a national epidemic by the CDC. An estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers and each day, 46 Americans die from an overdose.

While most people assume America’s drug problem lives in the dark alleys of its largest cities, it actually starts in the doctor’s office. Those who are most at risk of becoming a victim are patients receiving pain medication from a licensed physician.The problem is so rampant that a recent Time Magazine article reported that painkillers prescribed in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled since 1999.

46 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose

The aftermath of this quiet epidemic is dangerous and far-reaching. It not only destroys the lives and families of those addicted to opioids, it takes a toll on entire communities. We recently reported on the dangerous effect of opioid prescription abuse in a previous post about the HIV/Hepatitis C outbreak in Indiana.

Public health professionals are tasked with leading the effort to combat the devastation born of this abuse. From helping people struggle with addiction, to developing needle exchange programs, to the testing and treatment of Hepatitis C and HIV, local health departments are already struggling with this problem on a daily basis.

Painkiller Prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999

The Magnitude of the Prescription Drug Abuse Problem

  • Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills

  • U.S. patients here consumed 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, the opioid in Vicodin. They also consumed 80 percent of the world’s oxycodone, present in Percocet and OxyContin, and 65 percent of the world’s hydromorphone

  • Of the 9.4 million Americans who take opioids for long-term pain, 2.1 million are estimated by the National Institute of Health to be hooked and are in danger of turning to the black market

  • 4 out of 5 heroin addicts say they came to the drug from prescription painkillers

  • Since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report

  • Four in ten (39%) say they have known someone during the past five years who has abused prescription painkillers

  • Of those who have known someone who has had this problem, a majority say it has had a major harmful effect on the user’s family life (67%), work life (58%), and health (55%)

  • 21% of those that are familiar with the problem say that the person’s abuse of prescription painkillers led to their death

As more lives are affected by this epidemic, greater awareness and media attention grows. Outbreaks like the one in Indiana will become commonplace as they spread throughout every corner of the nation.

4 out of 5 heroin addicts came to the drug from painkillers


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