Why are Prescription Drug Overdoses Still Increasing a Decade Later?

Opening Article in Series: Solving the Prescription Drug Overdose Epidemic

Solving the Opioid and Heroin Overdose Epidemic

Opioid Epidemic Continues

Prescription drug overdoses and addiction, in particular opioids, are an epidemic in the United States. Each year, as it has for the past decade, the problem continues to increase.

Why are 16,917 people still losing their lives to opioid addiction?

Why has there been a continual increase from 4,030 deaths in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010?

Though it seems to be stabilizing, it’s not going down, and that’s bad news. This tragic epidemic is taking more lives each year than automobile accidents. Why doesn’t this warrant immediate action?

This is the first in a series of posts I will write that will examine the issue, those that play a role in in every part of an addict’s life, as I attempt to get to the bottom of the problem. These deaths are preventable and it’s time to take action and find a solution.

Troubling Trend

First, let me point out a troubling trend that seems to go hand in hand with opioid addiction, according to Leonard Paulozzi, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher with the CDC in Atlanta:

75% of heroin users say their addiction started with prescription opioids.

Deaths from heroin overdoses are on the increase as well, and it is believed that many opioid addicts turn to heroin when they can no longer obtain prescription opioids.

Doctors must do more.

Doctors could put the damper on the overdose increase by screening for patients who are doctor shopping by checking prescription drug monitoring programs in their states. They can also require urine screens to detect if patients are using illicit drugs. Doctors have got to do more, and we will examine this further within the series.

Lewis Nelson, MD, a toxicologist and emergency medicine specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, believes the continual increase rather than decline is seriously concerning. Although there is an obvious lag in the reporting of overdoses, we have known about this problem for long enough and it should have already been solved.

Other professionals say this growing number of opioid and heroine deaths is something that could have been predicted a decade ago.

Treatment has got to be as easily accessible as the pills or the heroine, and as of right now, it is not. There are not many medical specialists who are surprised by the number of deaths occurring. They’ve seen it coming.

All feel that we could have and should have been better prepared for this new trend of addicts moving from opioids to heroin.

Here we are in 2014 faced with a decade long trend that needs to stop. What can be done? Is it too late? Who is responsible?

Join me every Monday as we explore these tough questions in this informational series in hopes of finding a solution. We can all play a role in fighting this war against opioid and heroin addiction deaths. I think we all agree that something has got to be done to stop it today.

What are your thoughts on who is responsible?