Addiction today has become a major problem globally. There is a huge problem that can be hidden and not obvious to the public: addiction initiated from using prescription opioids or painkillers. The following paragraphs will discuss the percentage of heroin addicts whose addiction started when they were prescribed opioids, what percentage of overdoses are from prescription painkillers recently comparable to previous years, and the percentage of heroin addicts whose addiction started when they were prescribed opioids.
Firstly, pooling data from 2002 to 2012, the incidence of heroin initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported prior nonmedical pain reliever use than among those who did not (0.39 vs. 0.02 percent) (Muhuri et al., 2013) . A study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers non-medically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions (Lankenau et al., 2012) . This rate represents a shift from historical trends. Of people entering treatment for heroin addiction who began abusing opioids in the 1960s, more than 80 percent started with heroin. Of those who began abusing opioids in the 2000s, 75 percent reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug (Cicero et al., 2014) . Examining national-level general population heroin data (including those in and not in treatment), nearly 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids prior to heroin (Jones, 2013; Muhuri et al., 2013) . (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use).
Secondly, prescription opioid misuse in the USA has increased over threefold since 1990 to epidemic proportions, with substantial increases in prescription opioid use also reported in other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. The broad availability of prescription pain medications, coupled with public misconceptions about their safety and addictive potential, have contributed to the recent surge in non-medical use of prescription opioids and corresponding increases in treatment admissions for problems related to opioid misuse. Given competing pressures faced by physicians to both diagnose and treat pain syndromes and identify individuals at risk for addictive disorders, the use of opioids in the treatment of pain poses a significant clinical challenge. (WALTER LING) . The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose (poisoning) deaths. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin). CDC analyzed recent multiple cause-of-death mortality data to examine current trends and characteristics of drug overdose deaths, including the types of opioids associated with drug overdose deaths. During 2014, a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, representing a 1-year increase of 6.5%, from 13.8 per 100,000 persons in 2013 to 14.7 per 100,000 persons in 2014. The rate of drug overdose deaths increased significantly for both sexes, persons aged 25–44 years and ≥55 years, non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, and in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southern regions of the United States. Rates of opioid overdose deaths also increased significantly, from 7.9 per 100,000 in 2013 to 9.0 per 100,000 in 2014, a 14% increase . (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6450a3.htm, 2018).
Lastly, in the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. Opioid overdose rates began to increase. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.1 That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive) , . (https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis#three, 2019)The rise of the global prescription opioid epidemic started in the 1990s. At that time, pain specialists and advocacy organizations in the United States began to argue that the nation faced an epidemic of untreated pain. In turn, the American Pain Society advocated for the recognition of pain as the “fifth vital sign” and an increasing number of professional and consumer groups pushed for the increased use of opioids for pain management. Coinciding with this shift in medical perspective was the introduction and extensive marketing of OxyContin (oxycodone) for the treatment of non-malignant pain. OxyContin sales representatives visited doctors across the United States, leaving them with gifts, free patient samples, and invitations to all-expenses-paid symposia — all actions that are known to impact prescribing . The widespread adoption of opioids for pain relief was further facilitated by marketing strategies that downplayed OxyContin’s addictive potential and targeted primary care doctors , who continue to prescribe the majority of opioid pain relievers in many nations .The shift towards opioids for pain management led to a dramatic increase in prescription opioid production. From 1996 to 2012, global OxyContin sales increased from US$48m to over US$2.4bn . The worldwide increase in OxyContin parallels that of other opioids, such as morphine and codeine, which, similarly, experienced an unprecedented rise in production and sales . Over the same period, the number of prescriptions written for opioids increased in many nations. In the United States, the number of prescriptions written for opioids increased by 300% between 1991 and 2009. In Canada, the number of prescriptions written for oxycodone increased by 850% between 1991 and 2007. (Tatyana Lyapustina, 2015)(https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/comment/the-prescription-opioid-addiction-and-abuse-epidemic-how-it-happened-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/20068579.article?firstPass=false#fn_6).
In conclusion, this work was meant to shed the light on important information and statistics concerning the relation between prescription painkillers, the promotion for it, and how that may lead to addiction.
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Mother and wife from Rhode Island. Writer of contemporary fiction.