Throughout recent years, the amount of deaths linked to opioids has risen dramatically. In fact, over tens of millions of Americans suffer from severe pain and need a way to alleviate the pain – the only problem is, how does the country plan on regulating it without the nation’s prescription drug problem escalating?
Almost 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, with over 200 million opioid painkillers being prescribed each year – ultimately leading to over 16,000 overdose deaths. Moreover, a prescription painkiller addiction can also lead to using other opioids; such as heroin.
According to a study published by JAMA Psychiatry, “the ‘high’ produced by heroin was described as a significant factor in its selection, it was often used because it was more readily accessible and much less expensive than prescription opioids.”
The previous reasoning also explains why heroin overdoses have dramatically risen in recent years, jumping from 1,250 deaths annually in 1999, to 8,750 in 2013. Overdose is not the only potential negative side effect of opioid addiction; those suffering from dependency on the prescription pill also run the risk of endocrine abnormalities, lower testosterone, pain in other areas of the body, increased cardiac risks, and higher fracture risk.
Medical professionals and doctors argue that lawmakers have made it harder for them to prescribe medicine that is geared towards weaning people off opioids and heroin; such as: Suboxone and methadone.
According to addiction expert Anna Lembke, “If I want to write a prescription for oxycodone, I have absolutely no trouble getting the insurance company to pay for it and the pharmacy affiliate. If I want to write a prescription for Suboxone to treat an opioid addiction, I get about four pages of paperwork and about – literally – three hours on the phone arguing for why that patient needs that drug.”
Until lawmakers come up with a viable solution for combating the rising rates of prescription pill abuse, it appears that the nation will continue to face the same problem of increasing numbers of addiction treatment patients and rising prescription drug mortality rates.