Americans are in the midst of an opiate epidemic that is caused by our own needs. In the mid 1990's it was not common practice to be prescribed opiates for chronic pain. The reality back then was that it was actually illegal in most states to prescribe patients opiates that were not suffering from chronic pain caused by cancer. Cancer patients were the only patients that were prescribed the powerful painkillers for obvious reasons. In the late 1990's there was a push to liberate all pain. The push made prescription painkillers more heavily prescribed because people felt as though they should be able to live without pain. Lobbyists with connections to pharmaceutical companies pushed the legislation and now it is common to know someone who is prescribed these medications. It's even possible that you reading this blog right now might be on an opiate.
It is normal in our society to be prescribed some sort of prescription medication. The majority of Americans are taking prescription medications on a daily basis for a variety of ailments from high cholesterol, to blood pressure medication to antidepressants and more. When you go to the doctor in the United States, it is almost expected to walk out of the office with a prescription for something. Since we are a nation of pill poppers, pharmaceutical companies have developed many medications for every ailment possible and have made billions of dollars.
In an attempt to relieve all of our pain, Americans have become the world leaders for prescription painkiller consumption and many people are dying on a daily basis due to it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that the U.S. accounts for over five percent of the worlds population but we consume over seventy-five percent of the world's prescription drugs. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, death rates from prescription opiate painkiller overdoses in this country have quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. Opiate pain relievers were the culprit in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 which was more than street drugs cocaine and heroin combined. Many young teens that end up in the emergency room for opiates, got the drugs from their own parents medicine cabinets.
Powerful opiate painkillers have been proven to be a godsend for people suffering from acute pain. When your body is devastated by trauma and you need to relieve the pain nothing works better for that pain that narcotic painkillers. The problem that is starting to grow is whether or not the drugs are the right fit for chronic pain. More and more studies are starting to show that prescription opiate painkillers are not the best fit for all chronic pain sufferers. In fact, it may lessen the quality of life for many and at the same time will create a patient who becomes dependent on the medication to function normally.
How do we stop this epidemic? More and more professionals are pushing education and teaching our society about the dangers associated with prescription opiates. As people start to associate painkillers with abuse and addiction and see how easily someone can become affected by these drugs, the more people will look for alternative ways of treating their conditions.