America is in the middle of an opioid epidemic that our country has never experienced before. More than 16,600 people a year die from overdoses caused by opioids such as methadone, oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone. Even worse, hundreds of thousands more end up in hospitals for overdose or complications from abusing these medications. The opiate epidemic kills about 45 Americans a day and that number is growing. Even more alarming is that for every death associated with opioids, another 30 people are are admitted to emergency rooms for issues directly related to opioids such as addiction or overdose.
These alarming numbers have many professionals working to figure out the best route to help solve the issue. Why are so many people being affected by these medications? These medications are extremely dangerous. When the pain they are prescribed for subsides, these medications work drastically different than when the pain is present. When you have pain, the opiate painkillers masks it to allow you to function normally. When pain is not present and the medication is taken, it provides a euphoric feeling sometimes consisting of increased energy and overall well-being. When a user continues taking the medication after the pain stops, it becomes very easy for them want to take more in order to get the euphoric feeling. Tolerance builds quickly with opiates, and it's extremely easy to become addicted.
What doesn't help the issue is Hydrocodone is the MOST prescribed medication in the United States. Yes, a prescription painkiller is number one. When you take that into account, it is no surprise that addiction and overdose deaths are the highest they have ever been. In fact, prescriptions for opioids have soared over 300% during the last decade. Besides the obvious problems with the selling of opiates on the black market, the legal market (licensed doctors) are pushing these dangerous medications way too often and in instances that pain medications were once not needed.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is starting to put pressure on both doctors and pharmaceutical companies to help figure what can be done to help curb this issue. What rules and regulations can they change to make these medication safer for our general public? For one, they have created tighter controls on prescription painkillers. In the past, any licensed doctor was able to phone in a prescription to the pharmacy, allowing you to just go pick them up when they were ready. Now, you must provide the pharmacy with a handwritten prescription, which is then verified by a phone call to your doctor's office to confirm the medication was written by the doctor.
For people who are prescribed pain medications for long term use, the prescriptions are no longer allowed auto-refills. The patient must now visit their doctor each month in order to receive a new written prescription. Though this may be an inconvenience to the patient, it's helping to keep the patient safe. By pharmacies confirming with the doctors, and not having automatic refills, it also helps to protect the doctors from liability issues or having their name forged on prescriptions that were never prescribed. It also allows the doctor to keep better track of their patients on long term pain medication.
Opioids are very dangerous when abused and should be taken only as prescribed. They should only be taken when pain is present, under the supervision of a licensed doctor. If pain is not present, abuse can easily happen. Educate yourself on the dangers of opioids and ask your healthcare professional questions before you accept a long term prescription painkiller regimen.