It is not uncommon for people who are in pain to seek a painkiller prescription from the doctor or sometimes, even get painkillers from over the counter. According to statistics, 80% of the global opioids supply and 99% of the global hydrocodone supply is consumed in the US.
This is a scary statistic considering that the US only represents approximately 4.4% of the world’s population. In addition to that, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 97.5 million people in the United States used pain relievers in 2015 with 91.8 million of these people aged 18 years and older.
This number is significantly higher than the 36.5 million people aged 18 and above who smoked cigarettes in the US in 2015.
The unusually high prevalent use of painkillers in the US is highly indicative of a painkiller abuse and addiction problem in the country. Addiction is synonymous to physical dependence and psychological compulsion towards a substance.
The Addiction Center estimates that up to 4.7 million people in the United States are dependent on painkillers.
Painkiller abuse, on the other hand, is defined by SAMHSA as the use of painkillers in a way not prescribed by a doctor. This could include taking the drugs in a higher amount than suggested or even using the drugs for a longer time than prescribed. Painkiller abuse also includes taking the drugs with the intention of getting high from them.
Commonly Addictive Painkillers
Some of the most addictive painkillers include;
Drivers Of Painkiller Addiction
i. Firstly, painkillers are lightly regulated and are readily available to people over the counter. According to research, pro-painkiller lobby groups heavily outspend anti-painkiller lobby groups by more than 200-to-1.
ii. Secondly, medical providers are over-prescribing painkillers to patients. In 2012 for example, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that a total of 259 million opioids prescriptions were written in the US.
In 2015 approximately 1 in every 3 American adults was given a painkiller prescription by a medical provider. According to other statistics, the total number of painkiller prescriptions written in 2015 was 300 million.
The high number of painkiller prescriptions written in the United States is a worrying trend. This is particularly true considering that as many as 7% of the people who get written prescriptions for opiate or analgesic painkiller drugs become addicted to them.
The situation is made worse by the fact that 99% of the physicians who prescribe painkillers exceed the recommended 3-day dosage limit with some even prescribing painkillers for a whole month.
iii. The third primary driver of painkiller abuse in the United States is a habit known as “doctor shopping.” This is when patients consult multiple doctors for the sole purpose of getting more painkiller prescriptions. The patients then visit different pharmacies to fill the prescriptions given.
iv. Ignorance is also a major driver of painkiller addiction and abuse in the US. According to reports by the CDC, most of the people who use pain relievers are unaware of the dangers of non-medical painkiller use. In addition to that, most people reported sharing unused painkillers with their friends or relatives.
v. Patient attitudes and caregiver/physician attitudes are also to blame for the increased prevalence of painkiller addiction. On the one hand, more and more patients are adopting the belief that pain in the body is unacceptable.
On the other hand, physicians, nurses and other caregivers are under increasing pressure to reduce the levels of pain experienced by patients for the purpose of customer satisfaction. This results in a higher demand for prescription painkillers as well as more painkiller prescriptions by doctors.