The United States is currently experiencing the worst drug addiction epidemic in its history. The statistics are indeed frightening, with 17,000 people every year killed due to prescription drug overdose. The main drugs causing these deaths are opioid-based - either oxycodone or hydrocodone. And the problem is not contained only in North America, there are worsening trends found globally - especially in Australia, Canada and New Zealand as well.
Whilst there is recognition of this worsening crisis within the medical and political communities, the link between pharmaceutical companies, doctors/medical practitioners and body's like the FDA are perhaps too close for comfort. From the outside observer and those in the general public, it would seem that the recent approval of Zohydro (new opiate painkiller) is definitely a step in the wrong direction for managing this serious problem of addiction.
There are alternatives for pain management on the cusp of discovery, testing and clinical trialing. If we could focus on funneling more funding to other safer pain-management options with less addictive properties, we could see a huge change in the current addiction crisis. We have seen great promise in recent research focusing on sodium channel blockers as potential pain-management formulations, as well as other unique painkilling compounds that are found within snake and spider venoms. These options so far to date have shown no link to addiction and could pave the way for an entire new wave of pain killing drugs that are safe, non-addictive and extremely effective at managing pain.
The focus alone cannot just be on altering or implementing new types of drugs for pain management however. We have millions of people around the world who are currently addicted to opiate-based pain killing drugs and we need to stand up and start taking stronger action and greater steps to improving this unfortunate situation. The current crisis is not improving by implementing zero tolerance policies and simply imprisoning those who are addicted to and using opiates. There is a clear and present problem with many people who are imprisoned, released - and then simply go back to using these drugs. We need to look at ways in which we can transition people into recovery so that they can live a safe and productive life and contribute back to our society. Instead of continually wasting resources and funding on the "revolving door scenario" such as the one mentioned above, we could invest more wisely so that the people who enter into recovery have an opportunity to give back to society in a positive and productive way.