Opioids, commonly known as painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin, and Fentanyl, are becoming the most prescribed and abused drugs in America.
Prescription rate and statistics show that Opioids Are the Most Prescribed Drug in America.
Most prescription painkillers are prescribed by primary care and internal medicine doctors and dentists, not specialists. Roughly 20% of prescribers prescribe 80% of all prescription painkillers Dentists were the main prescribers for youth aged 10-19 years old. Nearly 46% of opioid prescriptions were given to patients between ages 40 and 59, and most of those were from primary care providers. The records show the trend that opioids are the most prescribed drug in America because approximately 56% of painkiller prescriptions were given to patients who had filled another prescription for pain from the same or different providers within the past month. In addition, nearly 12% of opioids prescribed were to young people aged 10-29, a nearly 20 year increase in the use of prescription painkillers. From 1991 to 2009, prescriptions for opioid painkillers increased almost threefold, to over 200 million, showing a trend that opioids are the most prescribed drug in America.
An analysis of national prescribing patterns shows that more than half of patients who received an opioid prescription in 2009 had filled another opioid prescription within the previous 30 days.
Misuse and Abuse
With the exponential increase in prescribing patterns, opioids are the most prescribed drug in America and more and more patients are abusing their prescription, meaning that they are taking more than what is prescribed to them. Indicators for this behavior include running out of their month’s supply before the original prescription is able to be re-filled, doctor-shopping (visiting different doctors) in order to obtain multiple prescriptions, getting prescriptions filled at different pharmacies so as not to raise any “red flags,” and even resorting to purchasing them illegally, either online, through an acquaintance, or off the street.
The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years.
Overdose and deaths
Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these medications, which were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), now that opioids are the most prescribed drug in America, prescription painkiller overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, killing more people than heroin and cocaine combined.
In 2010, nearly 60% of the drug overdose deaths involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths.
Men vs. Women
The CDC also finds that, although more men are dying of prescription drug overdoses, women are catching up. In the last 14 years, the percentage increase in deaths has been greater for women, spiking by 400% as opposed to 265% for men.
Being that opioids are the most prescribed drug in America, it is no wonder that access to these potent painkillers has gotten easier. A curious kid can gain access to opioid prescription pills simply by looking in their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets.