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Painkiller Deaths on the Rise

Painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycodone, Percoset and Morphine are among the most abused substances in the United States. As a result of the surge in abuse of painkillers in the last decade, deaths related to the illicit use of these substances have been sharply increasing. This can in part be attributed to the fact that – despite significant control efforts – painkillers are still relatively easy to obtain. Additionally, because these drugs are used legitimately in medical settings, many people view them as substances that can be abused with relative safety. This is clearly false based on the increasing numbers of people who die from painkiller abuse and addiction.

According to a 2011 Associated Press article published by Yahoo, the number of deaths from prescription painkillers has more than doubled in the last decade alone;

“Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone led to the deaths of almost 15,000 people in 2008, including actor Heath Ledger. That’s more than three times the 4,000 deaths from narcotics in 1999.”

The article goes on to state that;

“. . . nearly 5 percent of Americans ages 12 and older said they’ve abused painkillers in the past year — using them without a prescription or just for the high. In 2008-09 surveys, Oklahomans reported the highest rate of abuse; the lowest was in Nebraska and Iowa.” (1)

But what many people who consider these drugs to be safe don’t realize is that even while under a doctor’s direct care, addiction to painkillers regularly occurs. This is especially true in the case of chronic pain patients, who generally use the drugs for months at a time in order to alleviate their symptoms after a traumatic injury or surgery. Whether used recreationally or legitimately, the fact of the matter is that narcotics will cause dependence and addiction with prolonged use. In fact, for some people addiction can happen in as little as a couple of weeks.

Many health officials are calling the increase in the abuse of prescription painkillers an epidemic, citing high numbers of users and addicts – even in states like Maine, Oregon and Vermont, where populations and drug availability doesn’t seem to support a large base of prescription drug abusers but does nonetheless. In fact, according to an article in BBC News referring to the American prescription drug problem;

“Sales of the drugs to pharmacies and health care facilities have surged more than 300% since 1999, according to figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration. But prescriptions of the drug have risen sharply too. The report says enough medicine was prescribed last year to keep every American adult medicated for one month. (2)

These figures indicate that the problem is two-fold:

1.) Too many prescriptions are being issued
2.) Education on the dangers of these drugs is lacking

If you or someone you love has been abusing painkillers, you should know that their very life could depend on what you do right now. Call the number at the top of your screen for a no obligation, confidential consultation that won’t cost you a dime. You’ve got nothing to lose and literally your whole life to gain – all just by dialing a few numbers. Call us now – day or night.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More