Deaths from overdosing on prescription painkillers have been escalating during the past decade, health officials warn. According to the latest issue of Vital Signs, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during 2010 approximately 12 million Americans reported using nonprescription drugs for nonmedicinal purposes. This means that misuse of prescription painkillers has become a greater problem for Americans than the illegal drugs cocain and heroin.
American Addiction To Prescription Pain Killers Is Rising Rapidly
During the early 2000s, American misuse of prescription painkillers has risen to such proportions that it dwarfs abuses of previous decades. Just take a look at these startling statistics on drug abuse.
- In 2008 the number of people killed by misuse of prescription pain killers was three times that of 1999 (15000 vs 4000 respectively).
- In 2010, 12 million Americans including children as young as 12 years of age reportedly abused prescription drugs.
- In 2009 roughly five hundred thousand emergency room visits were due to misuse of prescription pain killers.
- Women are more likely to die from drug overdoses than men.
- Middle-aged adults are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than any other demographic.
- People living in rural areas are twice as likely to abuse prescription drugs than people residing in large cities.
- White Americans, Alaskans and Native Americans are more likely to overdose on prescription painkillers than other ethnic groups.
- Nearly 1 out of every 10 Native Americans age 12 and older took pain killers for nonmedicinal reasons, as compared to 1 in 20 for whites and 1 in 30 for blacks in the same age demographics.
- During 2008 and 2009, the misuse of prescription pain killers ranged from 1 in 12 (for people aged 12 years and older) in Oklahoma to 1 in 30 for Nebraska.
- Prescription sales to people in Florida are 3 times as likely as any other state.
How Did America Get Into This Mess?
America's drug abuse problem skyrocketed during the past decade because people stopped making health a top priority. Instead they succumbed to one of the basic laws of economics - supply and demand.
According to government statistics, in 2010 pharmaceutical companies sold 4 times as many pain killing drugs to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors than they did in 1999. Moreover, health care providers began dispensing drugs in such a way as to be described by the government as "pill mills". This is when doctors prescribe drugs to people who simply do not need them. Indeed some people are so addicted to prescription pain killers that they will actively seek out various doctors to write prescriptions for them.
Drugs Can Kill You
US government health officials warn that states with the highest number of prescription drug abuse also have the highest number of drug related deaths. It isn't clear whether these deaths are due to overdose or involve third party casualties i.e. person under the influence of drugs fatally injures another person, but the correlation between drug abuse and death simply can't be ignored.
Americans Can Put A Stop To Prescription Drug Abuse
The CDC says that improving the way prescription drugs are dispensed to patients can be useful for curtailing misuse of drugs while insuring that patients have access to the medicines that they need. How can America achieve these goals?
The government reports that it is tracking drug overdose trends to learn more about the problem. Agencies are also promoting programs to curtail drug abuse while ensuring that patients receive safe and effective medical care.
State agencies, health care professionals and the general public can also take steps to end the deadly epidemic. For example, the federal government encourages states to enforce laws against doctors who needlessly prescribe pain killers and those who engage in doctor shopping.
Physicians are on the front lines. Often times they will be among the first to spot drug abuse. The government advises health care professionals to screen patients for drug abuse and mental problems. They also recommend that doctors limit the quantity of prescriptions to that which is needed solely for the expected length of pain. In other words, provide medication for the amount of time that the patient is expected to be in pain.
High profile cases such as Kurt Cobain's suicide in early 1994 and more recently Michael Jackson's untimely death from prescription drugs and the resultant trial of his physician are shining a glaring spotlight on the problem of the misuse of prescription pain killers.
Government health officials suggest that people should follow their doctor's instructions, to only take pain medication as needed. This is just common sense. The human body can only take so much. Drugs are chemicals. They're designed to elicit certain effects. Even though pharmacologists and other scientists are constantly researching the effects that drugs have on the physiology of the human body, there's still much that they do not know.
Why should you risk your life taking drugs when you don't need them? You owe it to yourself to be healthy. We each are given one life, and we should honor God by leading a life that is clean and obedient to Him.
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CDC Vital Signs - Prescription Painkiller Overdoses in the US. http://www.cdc.gov/Vitalsigns/PainkillerOverdoses/?source=govdelivery
"Americans Have A Deadly Addiction To Painkillers, CDC Warns" copyright 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.