Rural America is the heartland of our great country. In rural America, you have coal mining, corn fields, cattle ranches, vegetable farms, steel mill work, and now, prescription drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rural America is being hit hard with prescription drug addiction, with an estimated 2.1 million people suffering from some type of prescription drug abuse and addiction in 2012 alone.
The National Institutes of Health reports that prescription drug addiction has been plaguing rural America for the last 2 decades. The abuse to heroin and prescription pain relievers affects 36 million people worldwide. The number of unintentional overdose deaths has soared in the U.S., thanks to prescription drugs. Based on data from NIDA, the number of overdose deaths has quadrupled in the last 15 years, since OxyContin burst on the scene in 1998.
Scope and Impact of Prescription Opioid Drug Use
To address the complex problem of prescription opioid abuse in the U.S., researchers analyzed the special characteristics of this phenomenon. NIDA evaluated the negative and growing impact of prescription drug abuse on health and mortality, but also assessed the fundamental role played by prescription opioids in healing and relieving human suffering. Prescription opioids fall into one of three broad categories, with the other prescription drugs abused being central nervous system depressants (Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin) and stimulants (Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin).
Several factors contribute to the severity of America’s current prescription drug addiction and abuse problem. These factors have helped create the “environmental availability” of prescription drugs, particularly opioids. These factors include:
- Increases in the number of prescriptions written
- Aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies
- Greater social acceptance for using prescription medications
The Cold, Hard Drug Facts
The total number of opioid painkillers prescribed in the U.S. have increased over the last 25 years. In 1991, only 76 million prescriptions of hydrocodone and oxycodone were written. Zoom in to 2015, there were 207 million hydrocodone and oxycodone prescriptions written in America. This accounts for around 90% of the world’s hydrocodone scripts and 81% of oxycodone scripts.
Based on data from NIDA, emergency departments (EDs or ERs) are dispensing more prescription pain medicines also. In 2008, the number of visits for nonmedical use of opioid analgesics increased to 306,000 up from 145,000 in 2004 (that’s 156,000 more visits per year).Overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers have tripled in the last two decades, with 16,650 in 2010 alone. By 2002, death certificates listing opioid poisoning as the cause of death were more common than cocaine or heroin.
Crushing, Snorting, Injecting, and Combining
Opioid prescription drugs, as well as stimulants and benzodiazepines, can be crushed and snorted for a faster “high.” Certain pure drugs, like morphine or oxycodone, can be mixed with water and injected into the veins. These drugs are more dangerous when snorted or injected. In addition, the drugs can be combined with alcohol for a stronger, more intense euphoria.
Rural Americans have turned visiting the doctor into hillbilly gold, as doctor shopping, obtaining scripts to sell, and visiting random ERs has become a common thing. More than 100 million people have chronic pain in the U.S., but for many of these people, the drugs are stolen, sold, or misused. Experts have long debated the use of prescription opioids for chronic pain relief. Because the problem has become an epidemic, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed specific prescribing guidelines for doctors to follow.
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