Nearly 100 Percent of the World’s Vicodin Prescriptions are Used in U.S.
The numbers are in: the U.S. rate of abuse of prescription painkillers is higher now than ever, with especially drastic jumps in the use of painkillers like Vicodin. Across the globe, no country uses more Vicodin than the United States – leading experts ask that it be reclassified to see more restrictive use.
Vicodin is the most widely abused prescription painkiller in the U.S., with an estimated 131 million doses given – up by almost 20 million since 2006. Data comes from a survey by IMS Health, and also shows that most of the prescriptions for painkillers could be avoided.
Not only does Vicodin abuse lead to serious and life-threatening addictions, it’s also increasingly linked to fatal overdoses, says a recent ABC World News report. Unintentional overdose from Vicodin ends more lives in 17 U.S. states than car crashes, says the Centers for Disease control and Prevention.
Globally, the U.S. also shows a crisis-level rate of Vicodin abuse. While less than 5 percent of the global population lives in the U.S., 99 percent of the Vicodin administered is used in America. Andrew Kolodny, New York’s Maimonides Medical Center Chair of Psychiatry, says the problem lies in the way Vicodin (hydrocodone) is labeled. The drug is listed as a Class III, but Kolodny suggests it be reclassified as a Class II, which carries more stringent usage guidelines.
In many U.S. states, the way a drug like Vicodin is handled and administered is directly connected to its level of classification. Kolodny has compared the addictive nature of Vicodin to street drugs like heroin, and states that it is just as high-risk as similar prescription painkillers that have tighter regulations.
It isn’t only physicians who are giving patients prescriptions for Vicodin. Surgeons, dentists and even podiatrists can prescribe the drug – which may be a reflection of its looser handling restrictions as compared to other prescription pain medications. Some pain experts believe painkillers like Vicodin should be restricted only for patients who are terminally ill, because in these cases, addiction is not as great of an issue.