The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report detailing that as many as 40 Americans die each day from overdosing on prescription painkillers. That amounts to nearly 15,000 deaths each year.
Deaths due to prescription overdose are now more common than deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined. And the problem does not look like it will be ending anytime soon. Prescription painkiller overdose deaths have increased three times over within the past decade.
80% of the World’s Painkillers are Taken in the U.S.
Director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, blames irresponsible doctors for the uptick in prescription painkiller abuse. He and other CDC experts have estimated that in 2010 enough painkillers were prescribed to supply every American adult with a one-month supply.
More than 600,000 doctors are licensed to prescribe opiate-based painkillers. Vicodin is one of the most popular prescription painkillers, because it is not as strictly regulated as its counterparts, making it easier for doctors to prescribe. In fact, 99 percent of the entire world’s supply of Vicodin is used by patients in the United States.
Accidental Overdoses from Prescription Painkillers Now Kill More People than Car Accidents in 17 States
The overprescribing of prescription painkillers is not only causing death, it is also costing an estimated $72.5 billion. And, three of the hardest hit states are Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Florida.
The federal government has proposed expanding statewide prescription drug monitoring programs to monitor electronically the number of painkillers prescribed in each state. But critics say these programs will not work alone. Patients need to be educated about the dangers of abusing and overdosing on prescription painkillers.
National Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske says doctors need to be retrained on writing prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers. He adds that people with moderate pain, such as back pain, should not be prescribed these highly addictive painkillers.