In the last 10 years, there’s been a drastic rise in the number of deaths caues by overdosing on doctor prescribed pain killers. Close to 15,000 people die every year as a result of this type of abuse, a number greater than the combined total of deaths due to heroine and cocaine overdose.
According to a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during 2010, one out of every 20 people in the U.S. aged 12 or older used prescription medication not for medical reasons, but rather for the euphoric feelings that they trigger.
Without a doubt, prescription drugs kept in the medicine cabinet or cupboards at home can pose a serious threat not only to adults but to kids and teenagers for whom abuse is reaching epidemic levels.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) more than 7 million Americans abuse prescription drugs.
The Partnership for a Drug Free America estimated that 2,500 teenagers take drugs everyday for the first time with a drug found at home. Abuse can cause addition to analgesis, tranquilizers, and stimulants.
There is also more talk of painkillers or so-called “pain medications” that can lead to death when they are mixed into a fatal cocktail with other drugs. Overdoses with prescription painkillers are part of a family of drugs that include hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone.
Despite recent reductions in the consumption of certain drugs among adolescents, especially marijuana, a growing number are consuming prescription and OTC drugs.
It is important to differentiate between a “prescription drug”, which is one which can only be obtained with the authorization of a licensed physician, or a “over-the-counter” medication which is sold without a prescription in pharmacies and used to combat allergies, flu, headaches, and other aches and pains.
But both types of drugs have explicit instructions on how to be consumed to avoid negative consequences. The Food and Drug Administration is the body responsible for approving all drugs that are on the market. New laws have made it harder to purchase drugs in large quantities which are intended to provide relief for certain ailments but are often used to manufacture illegal drugs such as methamphetamines.
Health authorities insist that both over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs can be as dangerous as illegal or street drugs such as cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, or marijuana. And, when consumed without a prescription, they are just as illegal.
According to the DEA, the death toll in the U.S. due to the consumption of illegal and prescription drugs reached 31,000 last year. They also confirmed that 7 million people are addicted to illegal drugs, a similar number to those that use prescription medication.
Although experts don’t know exactly why this type of drug use is increasing, they believe that easy access has become part of the problem as doctors prescribe more drugs for health issues than ever before and internet pharmacies have made it easier to obtain drugs without a prescription, some of which are disguised as bathsalts, plant food, or home cleaning products.
Some recent statistics on drug abuse in the U.S.:
- One in five teens (19% or 4.5 million) have used prescription drugs like painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, or stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall to get high.
- One in 10 (10% or 2.4 million) adolescents has used cough medicine to get high.
- Two in five teens (40% or 9.4 million) agree that taking prescription drugs, although not prescribed by a physician, is “much safer” than illegal drugs.
- Nearly one-third of teens (31% or 7.3 million) believe that “there is nothing wrong with” using prescription drugs without a prescription “once in a while.”
- Almost three in 10 teens (29% or 6.8 million) believe that pain relievers, even if not prescribed by a doctor, are not addictive.
- More than half of teens (55% or 13 million) don’t think it’s dangerous to get high off cough medicine.
- In 2008, about 15,000 people died of overdoses attributed to prescription drugs for pain in the U.S. This is more than triple the 4,000 people who died for the same reason in 1999.
- In 2010, about 12 million Americans (12 years and older) reported having used prescription drugs for pain last year.
- There are 500,000 emergency room visits each year as a result of painkiller abuse.
[Photo By ianturton]