We live in the world where the things that we are told will make us “well” can actually kill us—if not slowly with unpleasant side effects, then quickly with a tragic overdose. While it may be difficult to count how many people are killed or permanently damaged by the long-term and more subtle effects of prescription drugs, some deaths are pretty easy to tally, and officials say that they are continuing to climb.
The latest numbers show that total drug fatalities grew 3% in 2010 and that they likely followed the same trend into 2011. This despite state and federal efforts to educate the public on potential dangers and to restrict the sale and use of the most deadly prescription painkillers.
While the figures include all prescription deaths, prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin represent a good percentage of them. CDC researchers found they accounted for 16,651 deaths in 2010—that’s 43% of all fatal overdoses.
These painkillers are prescribed for all sorts of chronic pain conditions and diseases like cancer. But they are also highly addictive and therefore abused.
“The data supporting long-term use of opiates for pain, other than cancer pain, is scant to nonexistent,” said Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC. “These are dangerous drugs. They’re not proven to have long-term benefit for non-cancer pain, and they’re being used to the detriment to hundreds of thousands of people in this country.”
While government officials would have us believe tighter regulations are the way to go, such regulations obviously haven’t worked to curb overdose deaths yet. Several states have developed prescription drug monitoring programs, with databases to track patients and doctors who receive and dole out these most powerful drugs. But often the data isn’t used until a complaint has been filed on a specific doctor.
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It seems that by looking at the patients, we are blaming the victims of this drug-crazed society, a craze created by Big Pharmaceutical companies. While the physicians could shoulder some of the blame for doling out the drugs, the focus should really be on the drugs themselves, ridding the market of those that harm people and holding their makers accountable.
Chronic pain, whether due to cancer, arthritis, or injury—can be treated naturally. But officials don’t want to hear about the one “drug” that could help people live pain free without any risk of death. They don’t want to hear it because that “drug” is marijuana, and despite the fact that it is illegal and targeted by the federal government as one of the most dangerous Schedule I drugs on the scene, it has yet to kill a single person.