We are starting to see in the media and in the news more and more reports about the serious extent of America's, and the world's addiction to painkillers. It is difficult to know the true extent of how many people are accurately addicted to painkillers or who are abusing painkilling medications. According to experts however in an article from WebMD, it is estimated that 8.5 million Americans have a problem with addiction or the abuse of opiate painkillers. When we think about how many people that is, it is both astonishing and ultimately a scary set of circumstances.
The power that opiate-based painkillers have over certain individuals is immense. Many of us don't realize just how easy it is for these medications once ingested, to begin making changes to the body and the brain. The euphoria or the "high" that is associated with taking painkillers is not always noticed at first by some people, but they do come to realise very quickly after taking these medications that they are transformed into a calm and docile state. They become numb to reality itself, emotions and feelings and it very quickly can and does spiral out of control as people begin to continue chasing this feeling. It then gets worse as they realize they can no longer sustain these initial experiences and begin regularly taking the painkillers or drugs purely to maintain themselves and to not be sick from their withdrawal effects.
Opioids are now responsible for more deaths in the United States than any other drug. In 2010 - 16,000 people alone died from consuming opiate-based drugs (U.S Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). To give you a further idea of just how serious America's problem is with opiate and painkiller use/abuse - here is this unbelievable statistic: although America only accounts for 5% of the world's population, it consumes approximately 80% of the world's opioids supply. That is an absolute staggering amount of consumption of the drug, and just further emphasizes the work that lies ahead for health groups, the government and communities around the country. Taking action to reduce the death-toll and the impact that the drugs have on people, their families, the economy and the health system has never been more crucial. Whilst opioids still have their place in medicine, we cannot ignore the huge ramifications that their use and abuse has had not just in the United States but globally as well. As we work towards implementing new ways to manage opiate use, dependency and addiction - we also need to consider how science can help contribute to developing newer and safer pain-management medications for the future.