Prescription drug abuse has become a serious problem in the nation. The easy access and liberal prescribing of controlled substances by healthcare workers has created an epidemic of drug abuse in people of all ages.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 1999 and 2014, deaths from drug overdose have tripled in the US. Just 2 years ago, the CDC reported nearly 47,055 deaths from accidental drug overdose. Of these deaths at least 28, 647 were due to use of opiates. In just the past 12 months, the death rates from prescription drugs increased by a further 15.6 percent, of which nearly 72% of death were linked to the synthetic opiates like heroin and fentanyl. Deaths from the use of other semisynthetic opiates like meperidine also increased by 2.6 % but deaths from methadone dropped by 9.1%.
Americans have been taking opiates to manage pain from a variety of causes. While the drugs are very effective in providing pain relief, they also have severe adverse reactions of which one of them is respiratory arrest.
Dr. Thomas Frieden Director of the CDC mentioned that such large increases in death are very rare in America and added that since 2000 nearly 300,000 people have died directly as a result of opiate overuse. Such an increase in death has not recently been seen with any medical disorder or drug.
Both codeine and morphine are natural occurring opioids extracted from the poppy plant. The semi-synthetic opiates made by the pharmaceutical companies include hydrocodone; oxycodone and hydromorphone make up the bulk of opiate prescriptions in the US. These opiates are sold under very familiar brand names like Vicodin, Percocet, and Percodan.
The increase in drug-related overdose has been reported in 30 states including Washington, DC. In other states, the death rates have remained stable. In two states, South Carolina and Florida, the rates had been dropping over the past decades but suddenly saw a spike in 2015. The highest death rates from synthetic opiates other than heroin and methadone in 2014-2015 were in the Northeast and lowest in the West.
While the death rates have risen among men who use these drugs, women are not far behind, as their numbers have increased significantly in the past decade. These data suggest that a comprehensive national agenda is required to counter the prescription drug abuse, especially the opiate prescriptions. There are also efforts to make naloxone, the antidote to opiate overdose more readily available.