CDC: Prescription painkiller overdoses skyrocket
Overdoses due to prescription painkiller abuse or misuse is up these past few years. Way up. According to a CDC report published late last year, prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the U.S. in 2008, more than 3 times the 4,000 deaths reported in 1999.
“Overdoses involving prescription painkillers—a class of drugs that includes hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone—are a public health epidemic,” says the report.
A few more scary statistics: In 2010 one in 20 people in the U.S., ages 12 and older, used prescription painkillers for recreational use or without a prescription; also in 2010, about 12 million Americans reported nonmedical use of prescription painkillers the past year; nearly half a million emergency department visits in 2009 were due to people abusing prescription painkillers; finally, nonmedical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers upwards of $72.5 billion annually.
Now, I feel deep sympathy for those who get hooked on pain pills because they were prescribed to them for long-term treatment. Through no fault of their own they get desensitized to their prescription and they have eventually have to “abuse” the medication. In this case the “abuser” is blameless, and unfortunate. I think it’s unfair to pass judgement on these people. However, I really don’t like the idea of people getting this stuff just for recreational use. It’s very discouraging that kids and adults who don’t have pain problems have perpetuated a growing demand for these drugs. People with painful conditions need these medications, and these recreational users take advantage of that need. The idea of unscrupulous doctors running pill mills, e.g., the recent case of two CVS Pharmacies in Florida that each sold 20 times more oxycodone pills (about 3 million each) than the national store average due to morally reprehensible medical practices is even more disturbing and maddening. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason why. Any thoughts?