America in more pain than any other country–Pain Killers / Opioid overdose contributes to the death of 91 U.S. Americans each day
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What is going on in the United States with the prescription of Opioid drugs? Why are doctors continuing to prescribe them to patients knowing that they are dying at alarming rates? Why are doctors so easy to prescribe a narcotic that contributes to the death of 91 Americans per day?
During 2015, there were two million people who had a prescription opioid use disorder and there were 591,000 people who suffered from a heroin ( a form of opioid) use disorder. Although Opioids have been around for a while the current attention to the drug and its related deaths have now been considered a state of emergency, calling for a more direct and legislative policy on the prescription and use of the drug including Natural Opioids (morphine and codeine), Synthetic Opioids (tramadol, fentanyl, methadone), semi synthetic opioids (tramadol, fentanyl), and Heroin (an opioid synthesized from morphine). Note: Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than pure heroin.
Deaths from prescription opioids like oxycodone( such as OxyContin®), hydrododone(such as Vicodin®), and methodone, have quadrupled since 1999. Many people from all walks of life, all ages, and all races are using Opioid drugs. Opioids appear to be in the news often and noted as contributing to the death of public and nonpublic figures. See public figures in the news by clicking here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2016/06/02/celebrities-who-have-died-addiction/85314450
Many of the natural opioids (although not natural in nature) are prescribed by doctors and given to patience for pain. The problem is that they are highly addictive. Methadone, first synthesized in Germany at the laboratories of IG Farben, a large pharmaceutical company, contributes to the deaths of many Americans. When you look at history during the 1960s researchers at the Rockefeller Foundation developed a system of dosing heroin addicts with methadone to prevent their use of heroin. It was proposed to the administrators of New York City, where approximately half the country’s addicts lived, that methadone programs be established to treat these addicts and get them off the illicit drug. Today, you have many methodone clinics. However, according to a CDC report, methadone overdose deaths increased by 5.5 times between 1999 and 2009. In 2001 alone, the number of people who died from methadone were equal to the number who died in the entire decade from 1990 to 1999. But at the same time, deaths from other opioid painkillers was increasing at a similar rate.
In 2014 alone, 14,000 people died from prescription Heroin-related deaths. Overdose deaths linked to heroin jumped 39 percent in 2013 from year 2012. The CDC said 8,257 people died of heroin-related deaths in 2013, compared with 5,925 deaths in 2012.
“There is a growing population of people who are using narcotics, whether the prescription variety or heroin,” said study co-author Dr. Len Paulozzi, a medical epidemiologist at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The overprescribing of narcotic painkillers (such as Oxycontin and Vicodin), which has been going on for 20 years, is responsible for the increase in heroin use and overdoses, he said.
Some interesting statistics on deaths related to prescription Opioids (between 1999 and 2014 are listed below:
- Overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.
- Overdose rates were higher among non-Hispanic whites and American Indian or Alaskan Natives, compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.
- Men were more likely to die from overdose, but the mortality gap between men and women is closing.
Opioid deaths are disproportionately affecting communities across our country. In fact, during 2015 five states had the highest rates of death due to drug overdose and they were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000). Ohio has been one of the states hit hardest by the crisis. Last year, 86% of overdose deaths in the state involved an opioid. Local officials say that more than 800 people will probably die from an opiate overdose there this year, more than double last year’s record of 349 opioid deaths. According to a 2009 survey conducted by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 6.2 percent of American Indian or Alaska Natives misused prescription drugs in the last month, compared to just 3 percent of whites. In total, 18.3 American Indians or Alaska Natives used illicit drugs in the last month. Only 8.8 percent of whites could say the same. With the rise in overall opiate use, those numbers continue to climb.
A New York University Study found that 3 out of 4 high school heroin users started with prescription opioids. The study also revealed that 75% of high school seniors admitted to using prescription drugs prior to the use of heroin. Research by the University of Michigan that looked in the association of opioids with high school sports found that 11% of high school athletes have used a narcotic pain killer or an opioid such as oxycotin or vicodin for nonmedical purposes. Those who play sports use opioids to relieve pain. The problem is that the onset of addiction can happen rather quickly within a few days or a few weeks. When prescribed medications run out the alternative and easy drug to acquire is heroin, which is being distributed (illegally) everywhere (i.e. schools, communities, clubs, bars, etc). For this reason, look at the types of drugs that are being administered and realize the associated risks and addictive factors.
The geographic location of people shows a direct correlation to recent overdoses. Significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2014 to 2015 were primarily seen in the Northeast and South Census Regions. States with statistically significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2014 to 2015 included Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia.
With so many deaths associated with Opioids why are they still on the market and sold to people? Well you have to view the associated costs to Big Pharma. In 2006, pharmaceutical companies sold more than $5.8 billion worth of prescription opioids. In 2011, that number jumped to $8.4 billion. In 2012, there were 793 million doses of opioids prescribed in Ohio, which is 60-times larger than the entire population of the state. In 2010, 254 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the United States, which amount was capable of treating every adult in the country 24-hours a day for one month. There was about 300 million pain prescriptions written in 2015 accounting for a 24 billion market. Lastly, America (the land of the free) accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet America consumes approximately 80 percent of the world’s prescription opioids.
Current responses to the Opioid Crises Vary:
- Communities across the country are fighting back with litigation. Municipalities, including Indian Nations, have started suing the distributors and manufacturers of opioids. The communities are looking to be repaid for the rising government costs of treating opioid addictions and overdoses.
- Companies that sell the opioids are being sued such as McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Endo International, Teva Pharmaceutical, Allergan (formerly Actavis), Watson Pharmaceuticals, and Covidien.
- High schools are beginning to share information with parents about the use of prescription drugs (for athletes who are injured) and the possible onset of addiction.
- Statements about the addictive nature of big pharma drugs are being questioned and evaluated.
- Marketing money paid to doctors who prescribe and write unnecessary prescriptions is being reviewed. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee seeks marketing, sales, addiction study material from the manufacturers of America’s top five opioid products by 2015 sales. Video about it is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9WAfOC3JOc&feature=youtu.be
- Major pharmacies, like Walgreens, CVS Health, and Walmart are also being sued, as they are continuing to profit, while little is done to stop the flow of opioids into communities.
- Companies that allegedly violated the federal Controlled Substances Actby failing to alert the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of suspicious opioids purchases, such as orders of unusual size, frequency or pattern are being reviewed
- State Governments and Federal Entities are considering policy changes regarding Opioids.
Overall, when you look at the current opioid situation in America it makes you wonder why the country has not adopted a more aggressive plight to address this escalating problem. Furthermore, it leaves you to believe that pain management is an ongoing need and therefore, opioids will continue to contribute to the addiction and associated overdoses. Pain drugs (which bring in billions of dollars) are the second-largest pharmaceutical class globally, after cancer medicines. Perhaps the United States can adopt an approach like most other countries that use opioid prescriptions on a limited basis such as for acute hospitalization and trauma such as burns, surgery, child-birth and end of life care including patience with cancer and terminal illness.
Author, Tamikio Bohler, and owner of Mikios Natural Body Scrub LLC , (a company that makes and sells 100 percent natural salt body scrubs), wrote this Article in Support of September–Drug Free Awareness Month.
Interesting Reading on this topic:
- Foundation for a Drug Free World: http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/heroin/i-ll-just-try-it-once.html
- “All Scientific Hands on Deck” to End the Opioid Crisis (May 2017)
- Native American Communities dying from Opioids: https://trofire.com/2017/06/23/big-pharma-killing-native-americans-opioids-tribes-fighting-back/
- Blog – Addressing America’s Fentanyl Crisis(April 2017)
- Blog – The CDC Provides Crucial New Guidance on Opioids and Pain(April 2016)
- Testimony – What Science tells us About Opioid Abuse and Addiction (January 2016)
- Testimony – What is the Federal Government Doing to Combat the Opioid Abuse Epidemic?(May 2015)
- Testimony – America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse(May 2014)