Friday, February 20, 2015

Where the real war on drugs should be waged...

Deaths from Prescription Painkillers Triple in 20 Years – What’s Going On?

This is the real war on drugs

by Ella Jameson

The deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger may have grabbed headlines, but there is a far larger tragedy behind America’s recreational painkiller epidemic. Deaths from prescription painkillers have more than tripled in the last 20 years, while drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

These deaths are not the consequences of poverty cycles or criminal gangs; they are a consequence of our country’s dysfunctional health system. This particular disease is almost unique to the US, with causes that lie in the very institutions that should have our best interests at heart.

Almost all the opioids taken recreationally originate from a legitimate prescription from a legitimate doctor. They are not bought on the street. They are, by and large, not bought online, either. They are not sourced from pharmacy heists or other criminal activity. Painkillers come from friends and family, legally in possession of them thanks to a culture that has normalized the use of powerful painkillers to the extent that 10.43% of 18-25 year olds have used prescription pain relievers recreationally.

The question is not so much why do kids use prescription drugs – kids have always experimented with drugs – but why prescription drugs in particular? How come they are so easily accessible?


How do kids get hold of Valium? Oxycontin? One way is by raiding their mother’s medicine cabinet. It starts with a legitimate prescription, and when the pain goes away, mom likes to keep a few around.

The truth is that doctors are over prescribing. The number of prescriptions for opioids has risen from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013. The US is easily the largest consumer globally, accounting for nearly 100% of total world hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin) use and 81% for oxycodone.

Read: 16 of Nature’s Best Natural Painkillers

Needless to say, not all doctors are at fault. It’s usually confined to a relative handful in an area. And there is a particularly high concentration of over prescription amongst doctors who work alone, whose work – including their prescriptions – is not peer reviewed. Over-prescription is permitted by an under-regulated health system.

But why are they so ready to hand them out? Escalation like this isn’t the result of a few overzealous doctors.

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