The elevate risks of painkillers use in the US

Painkillers are a type of drug used to relieve pain, but if abused they can kill. The main painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Fentanyl, Ultram and Methadone are legally sold in the US by big and powerful pharmaceutical companies, that make huge profits from the sale of these legal drugs, whose largest market is in the States.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a public institution that controls and regulates the commercialization of food and drugs, there are more than 6 millions of Americans that abuse prescription drugs. For example Americans use 71% of the world’s Oxicontyn and 99% of world’s Vicodin.

 The use of painkillers is rapidly increasing. Experts predict that abuse of prescription drugs among older adults will increase by 190% by 2020. Another troubling statistic regards young people. According to a study on painkiller abuse 7 of the 11 drugs most commonly abused by high school students are prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

A 2006 survey found that 7 million people of 12 years old and over had abused prescription or over-the-counter drugs in the past 30 days. Painkillers were the most abused. 

Addiction to painkillers is not the only problem related to these drugs. According to a study by Medical News Today, between 1999 and 2002 there were more deaths from prescription painkillers than cocaine or heroin in the US. In the same period the number of overdose death certificates that mention poisoning by opioid pain killers went up by 91.2%. In 2002, over 16,000 people died in the USA as a result of drug overdoses. But also in Canada the dangers of painkiller abuse are evident: for example Oxycontin prescription has increased more than 850 % between 1994 and 2004 and in the same period 61,9 % of deaths due to alcohol or drugs were caused by opioids. 

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association these statistics are rising. Looking at the statistics of West Virginia alone it is easy to see the dangers of painkillers use in United States: 295 deaths in 2006.

According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana and the annual average number of people using non-medical pain relievers for the first time in the past 12 months has exceeded the number of new marijuana users since 2002.

The FDA has recently asked the manufactures of prescription pain medications for an industry plan in order to curb growing use of morphine, methadone, oxycodone and other opioid drugs. This could include a voluntary training program for doctors to better educate them about proper to use of pain killers and government certification for prescribing of controlled substances. The goal is to find a balance between reducing abuse of the drugs and maintaining access for patients who need them.

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