Prescription Painkillers In The United States
So, how are we doing? Honestly? We are failing at an alarming rate. The number of people dying from painkillers is steadily going up. The number of people using has also grown substantially. We are failing on every front to prevent overdose.
Prescription painkillers have grown into the millions of people addicted. Many of which from people who were only supposed to take the drugs for a short amount of time. While many deaths are from medications that relieve anxiety or reduce impulsivity, the largest by far are those that deal with pain.
Prescription drugs on the whole have nearly 2.5 million adults and children addicted according to a 2010 survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. While marijuana is the number one most abused drug in the United States, prescription drugs are a close second.
How Do People Become Addicted To Painkillers?
People can become addicted to painkillers for many reasons. The truth is though that anyone can become addicted to prescription painkillers. The possibility of someone becoming either psychologically or physically addicted to painkillers is influenced by many factors.
Some of these factors could be your personal life experiences, your genetics, your inability to cope with life, or even environmental factors. Just because someone has never found themselves using heroin or meth, doesn’t mean they won’t find themselves vulnerable to painkillers.
The strongest prescription painkillers are things like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Demerol, or Fentanyl. These particular prescription painkillers can give someone such a craving that they may do things they wouldn’t normally do. This could be stealing or other crimes so they can get more of that drug.
A major sign of being addicted to prescription painkillers is when you are taking more pills than you have been prescribed. For instance, if you have been prescribed to only take one to three Vicodin a day depending on your level of pain, and instead you take six.
If you are running out of your prescription painkillers way before the end of the month, you more than likely might have an addiction. Another sign is that you are drinking alcohol with the painkillers in order to increase the effects.
While there are doctors out there that will provide people with more than one refill per month, most will stop and consult with you for fear that you might have developed an addiction to painkillers. This usually occurs when you’re trying to get a refill, but you should have several days or weeks left.
Unfortunately, when this happens many people will just seek out their painkillers in other places. This happens especially when they start feeling the symptoms of withdrawal. Sometimes, they don’t always go with the drug they were using before.
The Hard Numbers – Overdosing On Painkillers
Overdosing on painkillers has been a growing trend for years now. Since 2013, overdose deaths increased fourfold since 1999. For now, these numbers have plateaued, but they are not decreasing. Overdosing on painkillers kills over 16,000 people a year right now. These are just the ones directly linked to painkillers.
To understand the rise in deaths from painkillers you also have to see the supply. For example, in 1999 there was only 44 thousand pounds of prescription drugs sold. At the end of 2013 though, that number skyrocketed to over 154 thousand pounds, more than tripling the amount of drugs.
The death toll increase from painkillers has also been humiliating. Only 1.6 in 100,000 people died from painkillers in 1999. By 2013, that number increased to 6.8 in every 100,000 people. Every 30 minutes or less, someone is dying on an overdose of painkillers.
Painkillers even overtook car accidents as the leading cause of injury death in the United States in 2013. Of the 44,000 people that died from all drugs, 23,000 people died by or in relation to painkillers. 16,000 were directly from painkillers, while 7,000 were caused by the mixing of painkillers with benzos.
The other crazy thought is how much all of this is costing us. In 2007 alone, when it wasn’t as high as it is right now, the price for all of this cost us around $55.7 billion. This is just from criminal justice fees, healthcare costs, and lost productivity.
Why The Huge Rise In Painkillers And Overdose?
Overprescribing is just one cause for the rise in the overdosing of painkillers. Doctors have been overprescribing painkillers for chronic non-cancer pain patients. But these people need this pain medication, don’t they?
Maybe for a short time, but there is little evidence that any long-term treatment with painkillers will improve their function, chronic pain, or quality of life. In some states, doctors are providing three times the amount of painkillers compared to the same type of doctor and patient in a neighboring state.
There has also been a huge rise in pain management clinics, or “pill-mills”, that are a huge reason for the rise in painkillers. Many people who don’t even need major painkillers can get them at these places as long as they can pay.
That is due to the fact that these “pill-mills” are just in the business of making money. They are just legal drug dealers selling to anyone who can pay the cash prices. In fact, people are more likely to get their painkillers from a doctor or a friend who got them from a doctor than just a dealer on the street.
Fentanyl – One Of The Most Dangerous Prescription Painkillers
Fentanyl is probably one of the most dangerous prescription painkillers. It is a synthetic painkiller meant to help with breakthrough pain. This is when someone who is taking their normal painkiller prescription, but is still experiencing sharp and debilitating pain that comes through their normal medication.
It is typically only given to cancer patients, but there are other who receive this painkiller. It is scaled to be 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. If you were comparing it to heroin, it is 15 to 20 times more powerful. Even the smallest of doses will do the trick.
When Fentanyl released a time release patch, its popularity grew. The appeal is understandable, as before that you could only get the medication at a hospital and it had to be injected. With this patch, you could simply put it on while taking your other painkillers and never experience breakthrough pain.
It does this by having a slow release in your skin by being mixed with an alcohol based gel. In some cases, people didn’t even need to take their normal painkillers anymore. Lozenges eventually were released as well for those that didn’t care for the side effects from wearing the patch all the time.
People that get these painkillers usually have a prescription, however many are from stolen medical trash bins. When they expire they are thrown out, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad. People will take the patches, cook out the alcohol, and then use it or sell it on the street.
The other dangers of the drug are the risks of children getting their hands on it, literally. If children touch a patch that hasn’t been properly disposed of, they could immediately overdose. Fentanyl is so strong, and their bodies so small and not tolerant of the drug, that they won’t be able to process it.
Signs Of An Addiction To Painkillers
There are many signs to an addiction to painkillers if you know what to look for. These symptoms can vary, but are all signs of a possible problem. If you believe you are at risk for an addiction to painkillers you should consult with your doctor immediately.
Symptoms And Signs Of Addiction To Painkillers:
- Increased sensitivity
- Usage increase
- Low blood pressure
- Time spent on obtaining prescriptions
- Decreased breathing rate
- Neglects responsibilities
- Poor coordination
- Change in personality
- Excessive mood swings or hostility
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Poor decision making
- Social withdrawal
- Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
- Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
Withdrawal Symptoms From Painkillers:
- Rapid weight loss
- Large pupils
- Abdominal pain
- Psychotic episodes
- Body aches
- Craving for drugs
- Agitation and severe negative moods
Withdrawal symptoms from prescription painkillers can be very harsh, even deadly. It is best to let professionals help take care of you when you are coming off of painkillers. If you need help, please contact us immediately.