Prescription painkillers now kill more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined. Why is this? Many people attribute the epidemic levels of prescription painkiller abuse to over-prescribing by doctors. The lack of education on prescribing techniques of these dangerous narcotics also plays a role. Some doctors admit that while in medical school, very little time is emphasized on addiction and the dangers of dependency. They simply understand that opiates are great medications for pain, but do not really understand that addiction is caused by these drugs being used for chronic pain.
As far as chronic pain is concerned, new reports are beginning to show that drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet should not be prescribed for chronic pain because they do not work for it. In fact, the city of Chicago has filed a lawsuit in relation to these new reports and are asking for punitive damages because of it. They believe that the pharmaceutical companies marketed the medications for chronic pain and pitched them to doctors when they knew that they would not work for chronic pain. They claim the pharmaceutical companies were aware of how dangerous and addictive these medications were.
Once the drugs were marketed for the purpose of chronic pain, thousands of doctors began prescribing them all across the United States. When these drugs flooded our communities, it was quickly learned that these drugs were very addictive. They fell into the wrong hands and a giant black market grew very quickly. Prescription drugs were everywhere and selling fast and for big profits. Pill mills were born in Florida. People would travel from all over the United States with cash, enter these facilities for fake ailments and leave with filled prescriptions. They would return to their states and sell the drugs for profit. Since then, the pill mills have been shut down. In fact many operations around the country where dirty doctors would over-prescribe opiates have been caught and closed down.
Law enforcement and local governments have done outstanding jobs at curbing much of the illegal sales, but they can not stop it all. Many experts believe that the amount of prescription painkillers on the black market is just too massive. The desire for these drugs is so large that drug dealers find ways to get the product on the black market. When the demand is so high, the supply will arrive and according to the American Journal of Public Health, in 2010 prescription painkillers were a factor in over 16,000 American's deaths.
With all the new programs being put into place to stop the massive destruction of prescription painkillers, I expect to see a drop in the numbers of deaths associated with prescription painkillers in the future. Most of the studies being done take years for their results. The most recent study being from the CDC is from 2010. So as our state and local governments continue to curb the prescription painkiller epidemic, I expect the numbers to drop, but the numbers of heroin deaths will likely increase. The sad truth is that opiates, no matter what form they are in, are highly desired. The cheaper and easily assessable heroin has become king and will continue to take lives until education is more widespread in our society.