Opioid Abuse Trending Upward Across the Country

A new study of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Census data conducted by the Associated Press shows disturbing evidence that popular painkiller use is on the rise and spreading. Particularly alarming is the rate of increased use of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone . Oxycodone is better known by names on the market such as OxyContin and Percocet, while hydrocodone is found in the likes of Lortab and Vicodin.

Though the painkiller epidemic originated on the east coast in the Appalachia region, it is now stretching its grips across the entire United States. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2008 attributed almost 15,000 overdose deaths to oxycodone and hydrocodone, and this problem does not appear to be going away anytime soon. The DEA also showed a marked increase in sales of oxycodone during the last decade.

Gregory Bunt who serves as the medical director of Daytop Village Drug Treatment Centers in New York says the reason for the increase is two-fold. He attributes the increase to the ailing health of aging baby boomers and the fact that doctors these days are much more likely to treat pain with medication versus suggesting other alternatives.

While opiod painkillers do a great job of relieving pain, they also produce euphoria, which often leads to their abuse. Bunt adds that addiction is fueling sales of these painkillers as patients will simply hunt for another doctor if their primary decides to stop prescribing them. For some it’s as easy as crossing states borders to avoid sophisticated computer tracking systems and others resort to mail order pharmacies.

The widespread abuse of these legal painkillers is setting off alarm bells because many communities are unprepared when it comes to resources needed to deal with increased rates of dependency. Although beneficial for many, the dangers of addiction of these drugs are just as real as heroin or cocaine when used improperly.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.