Painkiller Overdose is an Epidemic in the US
Abuse of prescription painkillers has reached epidemic proportions in the US, reveals the CDC. Deaths caused by painkiller overdose have tripled in the last ten years. In fact, these deaths are higher than those caused by cocaine and heroin combined. The CDC admits painkiller overdose is an epidemic, but is positive it can be halted.
Prescription drug abuse can be blamed on irresponsible doctors rather than drug pushers. The CDC report reveals that sales of opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone and oxycodone have quadrupled since 1999. The sales of these drugs are booming because about 12 million Americans are using them for recreational purposes.
It is not surprising therefore that deaths due to painkiller overdose rose from 4,000 in 1999 to about 14,800 deaths in 2008. The most affected groups are white men between 35-54 years, Alaska natives and American Indians. Death rates are highest in impoverished and rural areas.
Painkillers Give a High
Health experts say overdose deaths are caused because opioid painkillers are very addictive. Many people take them for surgery or knee pain. Their soaring popularity is because they not only relieve pain, stress, depression and anxiety, but also provide feel-good emotions. But, as patients become tolerant to the drug effects, they need to increase their dosage to enjoy the same effect, resulting in fatal overdoses in some people.
Whopping Health Costs
Painkiller overdose causes death because of respiratory depression. Prescription pain relievers are more lethal when taken along with alcohol or anxiety medications. Rehab experts say Oxycontin and Vicodin addicts who come to treatment are outnumbering heroin addicts these days. The boost in the availability of prescription drugs has increased hospitalizations and deaths due to overdose. Painkiller abuse is costing health insurance firms a whopping $72.5 billion annually, reveals the CDC report.
The Way Out
To ameliorate the epidemic, the report suggests better monitoring of insurance claims and health records. Laws are also required to reduce high prescription rates of painkillers in affected states.