Pain pill addiction would not have hit the radar twenty years ago, but today, it is responsible for more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
Among wealthy nations, the rate of pain pill abuse can be as much as twenty times higher than less wealthy countries. According to some experts, the CDC in Atlanta has called it is the worst epidemic in US history, and that the FDA’s efforts to curb the problem are “failing miserably.”
So, why is the FDA balking at restricting their “very broad” criteria by which physicians can prescribe these meds?
The answer is simple, according to them. It is a double-edged sword. On one hand, people develop a pain pill addiction from their use that increasingly results in death. On the other, there are those who must take the medications to have a humane existence and standard of living.
However, some are arguing that the drugs are being doled out too liberally, and that their use in long-term pain management is even ineffective.
The fear for some in Washington, though, is that rates of heroine addiction will spike as addicts try to find alternatives that are both cheaper, and more readily available. This would cause increases in crime, burden on healthcare and law enforcement, and negatively impact both the local economies and housing markets in a given district.
How bad, exactly, is the problem of over-prescribed pain pills? It is bad enough that every adult in the US could be medicated around-the-clock for a month straight, based on records from 2010. More than half of the 78,000 deaths around the world were a direct result of opiate addiction.
It is a harrowing challenge to face, and one that is not going away any time soon. However, efforts to change are being made, with some proposals going so far as to hold the drug manufacturers liable in deaths and for treating addicts hooked on their medications.
That piece of legislation, proposed in Nevada, ultimately failed, but its backers are proud that they were able to bring more attention to the issue. Nevada itself had the third-highest number of overdose deaths, and tied for second as the state with the highest number of people prescribed pain pills.
The one thing that is clear, though, is a solution needs to be found, and it must originate on both the supply-side and consumer-side of the issue.
The drug companies are starting to make moves to help the FDA and other government agencies crack down on doctors who prescribe the meds with little forethought.
Reducing the pool of candidates who can be prescribed the medications is a good first step. It prevents the problem from growing faster than it otherwise would. However, there also needs to be a solution for those who have already developed an addiction to pain meds. With addiction already being at epidemic levels, there is a large section of the population who needs assistance in treating the effects of their pain pill treatment.