Prescription drugs now kill more people in the US than accidents, which reflects a troubling rise in America’s addiction to opiate pain medications.
Deaths from overdosing on powerful prescription pain pains were about 37,000 in 2009, about 1200 more than traffic accidents according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These numbers to not appear to be declining says, Dr. Arturo C. Taca, Jr, Medical Director of The INSynergy Program in St. Louis, MO. Dr. Taca says that there has been a steady increase of deaths not only from opiate pain pills like Percocet or vicoden, but heroin has crippled many communities with overdose deaths of young adults.
Seven in 10 people got their prescription painkillers from a friend or relative, whereas nearly 10% bought them from a friend or relative, and five percent took them from these people without asking.
“Many students from high school begin experimenting with pain pills because its easier to get than illicit drugs. Many teenagers don’t even have to leave their own house to get them. Liberal use of pain pills find themselves into the medicine cabinet of the parents. This is where they start. When they get quickly addicted, they resort to heroin”, says Dr. Taca
In 2008, prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, the main ingredients in Oxycontin and Vicodin, landed 305,885 Americans in emergency rooms — more than double the 144,644 visits in 2004, according to a 2010 study by Samsha and the CDC.
In April 2011, the Obama administration revealed a plan to curtail the country’s prescription drug abuse “epidemic.”
“This is a public health crisis,” says Dr. Taca. The plan supports state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, take-back programs that safely dispose of prescription narcotics and education programs for patients and health care providers.
Drug treatment admission rates have risen dramatically over the last decade, specifically for prescription pain med dependence. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the treatment admission rate for opiates other than heroin grew 400% in 2008, which was up from 2005.
Teens and young adults abuse prescription drugs more than any other illicit drug, except marijuana. According to the United State Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), one in seven teenagers admits to abusing prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, and 60% of the teens who abused prescription pain pills experimented before the age of 15.
“What we need is awareness of the problem, educating parents of signs of addiction, and how to get immediate medical treatment. There are now new FDA approved medications that can help with cravings of opiates and heroin and provide a comfortable detox. The newest advancement is a monthly injection that can block the effects of pain pills or heroin.”
Dr. Taca reports that in his outpatient program, he has seen a change in the face of the heroin and pain pill addict. He reports that many of his clients come from suburban America with good family values and solid support. He also reports that his clients have been getting younger every year which supports the data from the CDC reflecting that teenagers are the largest users of illicit pain pills.