Painkillers live up to their namesake by killing thousands of people every year as prescription opioids continue to become a growing problem in this country. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers containing opioids every day in the United States.
In 2012, healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain killers, enough for every adult in America to have a bottle and then some.
To put this number into perspective, take into consideration that deaths caused by illegal drugs do not even come close and make up less than half of all deaths caused by some form of overdose.
At this point in your life, you have either been prescribed, consumed or known someone who has had direct interaction with prescription painkillers such as Vicodin or OxyContin. While the drugs themselves do not pose immediate harm, more and more people are starting to abuse them due to the opioids in them being highly addictive and dangerous in the long run.
People who become addicted to painkillers are not always prescribed the drugs by doctors but obtain them though illegal methods.
Illegal abuse of the drugs is not a coincidence but a growing problem, especially among youth who are easily influenced by popular media and culture. Music artists such as Justin Bieber, Juicy J and even Sia have all produced tracks about the use of prescription painkillers.
Unfortunately, many of these artists are glamorizing the after effects of consuming and getting high on painkillers in the form of a drink called lean, widely known to have originated in Houston. Young people believe that partaking in the same activities as their idols is a way to emulate the lives of the rich and famous but do not completely understand the threat that they impose.
Celebrities including Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger and Kurt Cobain were all found dead with some form of prescription drugs in their systems. Most deaths caused by painkillers are not direct but coupled with the misuse of other substances including alcohol or harder drugs like heroin.
Sadly, the Food and Drug Administration continues to undermine the increasingly problematic situation surrounding the abuse of prescription painkillers and deaths involving their use.
The FDA recently approved a painkiller named Zohydro, a new drug that contains a pure form of hydrocodone. The drug makers claim that this pure form of the painkiller is necessary in order to rid the final product of acetaminophen, an additive commonly found in over-the-counter pain medicines such at Advil and Tylenol that can be damaging to the liver in large doses.
The downside, however, is the fact that hydrocodone is highly addictive. Patients easily build a tolerance to it and in turn need progressively higher doses in order to keep feeling its effects.
The controversial drug has met much opposition from many government officials and even members of Congress. According to USA Today, attorney generals in 28 states have publicly criticized the FDA’s decision to accept the drug into production, with Massachusetts even attempting to ban it all together.
Whichever side of the argument you may be on, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that prescription painkillers are a dangerous threat to today’s youth. As more people find different ways to use and abuse these substances, we easily forget that they were originally created as medicines and should be used for precisely that purpose.