One of the hardest things for a physician to do is judge someone's pain. Usually the doctor will ask the patient from a scale of 1 to 10 what their pain level is at. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible for a doctor to tell if a patient is not being truthful about their pain level. A doctor has taken an oath to provide the best and safest medical advice that they are capable of. If a patient is suffering in pain, a doctor will prescribe the medication that they believe will help that patient the best way possible.
Since the late 1990's, prescription painkillers have been prescribed in a liberal manner. The reason being that during the 90's there was a movement by the pharmaceutical industry for patients to not live with pain. During this same time, a very powerful medication was released on the market known as Oxycontin. This medication was a extended release oxycodone only medication. There was no acetaminophen in it and the powerful narcotic oxycodone was released slowly over a long period of time making it easier for patients to receive their medication and to take far less than what they were used to.
The popularity of the painkillers started to explode. People who had legit pain were feeling much better and were able to manage their lives in ways they were never able to before. But at the same time, it opened the door to a very dangerous movement.
Opiates make people feel good. The drugs work on brain chemicals to alleviate pain but if there is no pain present or you take more than is needed to mask the pain, the body is overcome by euphoria. For some, that feeling takes away many of the other issues they are dealing with, whether it is depression, anxiety or lack of energy. They like the way the medication makes them feel and before many even realize it, they are developing a need for the medication that far outweighs their actual ailments. For many legit pain patients who I speak with, this is a very normal trend and one that leaves them scared, as they know tolerance builds quickly.
It is not as if the American public has more pain than it did 20 years ago. I believe many factors played into the perfect storm that we are currently seeing. The drugs are worth a fortune on the black market, and greed plays a roll in an economy that has some extremely high unemployment rates. Many patients are Doctor Shopping strictly to flip their prescription on the streets for a few thousand dollars. Even some dirty Doctors are writing out prescriptions to those who can cash for visits.
The amount of these medications and different pharmaceutical companies producing these medications continues to grow. The competition is fierce and extremely profitable. Many good doctors are being taken advantage of patients that want the expensive pills. Hydrocodone known most famously by the name brand Vicodin is the most prescribed medication in the country. The damage continues and with no changes in the horizon. We have become a painkiller nation and it is taking the lives of thousands of people a year.