The single largest cause of accidental death in North America – above even traffic accidents - is drug overdoses. And it’s not just street drugs. Prescription pain pill overdoses kill more people than heroin, cocaine, and all other illegal drugs combined!
A lot of pain meds are opioids – which belong to the heroin family. They used to be reserved for cancer patients, or the terminally ill. But a lot of doctors now feel they’re essential for managing common pains. And often prescribe them for even minor complaints, like a sore back, which opens the door for abuse.
Experts say the number of opioid prescriptions has jumped 400%. And they’re especially addictive because they rewire parts of your brain to crave more drugs, while damaging the areas that control your cravings. Eventually, your brain stops feeling pleasure, and you need the drug just to feel normal. And you end up taking so much, it almost guarantees you’ll overdose.
Addicts often get started by snagging pills out of the family medicine cabinet to get high, or after getting a prescription for actual pain, and getting hooked.
Experts say the blame for abuse should be shared among doctors, pharmacies, and the addicts themselves. But doctors insist that pain is impossible to diagnose, so they have to take the patient’s word for it. And pharmacists say it’s not their job to question a patient with a valid prescription.
But the DEA is starting to crack down. They recently revoked the licenses of three stores from major drugstore chains for selling excessive amounts of oxycodone. Now major pharmacies are working with regulators to reduce prescription drug abuse, while making sure patients who actually need pain meds can still get them.