Category Archives: Drug Addiction

white oxycodone pills spilling out of prescription bottle

Oxycodone and America’s Obsession With Painkillers

America’s reliance and addiction to painkillers is not slowing down, despite ongoing federal, state and local efforts. OxyContin (extended release oxycodone) is partially to blame for the opioid epidemic that has gripped the nation the last decade or so – a crisis that has escalated dramatically over the last few years.

After OxyContin was approved in 1995, Purdue Pharma launched an aggressive marketing strategy targeting physicians with less training in pain management techniques. This led to more than 50% of all OxyContin prescriptions being written by primary care physicians rather than pain specialists.

OxyContin was a cash cow for Purdue, resulting in $45 million in sales the first year after its 1996 release and $2.528 billion by 2014 in the U.S. alone. By 2013, more than 1,000 Americans were treated daily in emergency departments for prescription opioid misuse and by 2014, 4.3 million were abusing prescription opioids for non-medical reasons.

The federal government and about 50% of states have enacted restrictions, such as limiting the dose or duration of prescription opioids. Insurers and pharmacies began imposing similar limits on opioid use for acute pain, as opposed to opioid use for cancer and chronic pain.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has increased efforts to crack down on unscrupulous healthcare providers and illicit sales. Many medical groups have issued guidelines recommending prescribers offer alternative pain management options whenever possible and limit doses and duration of opioid prescriptions.

Illegal Sales of Oxycodone

Despite crackdowns and warnings, about 115 people lose their lives every day to opioid overdoses, including oxycodone, fentanyl and heroin. And every day, countless stories are published about illicit sales of opioids, fueled by greed and oxycodone addiction.

A recent case involved sales of tens of thousands of oxycodone pills obtained illegally from people with prescriptions and sold on the street. “As alleged, these defendants created a network spanning New York City to Connecticut for the distribution of tens of thousands of highly addictive and dangerous pills, helping to fuel the opioid epidemic plaguing our nation,” said Geoffrey Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement.

Why Is Oxycodone Addictive?

Opioid-based drugs and medications such as oxycodone have the potential to produce changes in brain chemistry. Associated euphoria, withdrawal and tolerance (a need for escalating doses to alleviate pain) can result in misuse, physical dependence and addiction, especially without medical oversight from a prescribing pain specialist. Depression and anxiety associated with chronic pain may be relieved temporarily by the pain-relieving and euphoric effects of opioids, contributing to abuse in people who suffer from chronic pain. And some people without chronic pain misuse painkillers with alcohol and other drugs, either unintentionally or intentionally to cope with co-occurring mental health issues such as depression.

Prescription Painkiller Facts and Stats

  • About 21-29% of individuals who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • In 2016, an estimated 6.9 million Americans aged 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine in the past year.
  • Between 8 and 12% of people develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6% of those who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80% of people who use heroin misused prescription opioids first.

Fighting the Opioid Crisis

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identified the following five strategic priorities to fight the opioid crisis:

  • Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  • Promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthening understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance
  • Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction
  • Advancing better practices for pain management

In 2016, 5 billion oxycodone tablets were distributed legally in the U.S., the second most popular prescription opioid after hydrocodone, with 6.2 billion tablets.

On a positive note, public awareness about the dangers of addiction resulted in the biggest drop in opioid painkiller prescriptions in 25 years. In 2017, opioid prescriptions were down 12% from the prior year.

Prescription Pain Killers at Work

Pain Meds and Workplace Safety: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

Opioid painkillers are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S. Unfortunately, they’re also the most widely abused medications, and millions of Americans have significant problems related to their improper intake of prescription pain pills. And, as we’ll see, even a single person with an opioid problem can jeopardize the safety of your workplace.
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Hispanic Addiction Rates

Addiction Increasing Among Hispanics

Hispanics are now 17 percent of the population in the U.S.; a minority still, but a significant and growing one. In fact, estimates say that the population will rise to 30 percent by 2050. As the population of American Hispanics grows, the concerns of this demographic become more important. Among these concerns is addiction. Statistics show that rates of substance abuse and addiction are on the rise among Hispanics. However, access to treatment and the quality of that treatment are static at best.
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Senior Americans and Addiction

More Older Americans Battling Substance Abuse

Troubling statistics clearly demonstrate that older Americans are struggling with drug abuse and alcoholism more than ever before in the U.S. Why this trend is being seen can partly be explained by the aging of the large baby boomer generation, but the issue is more complicated than this simple fact. Why are older adults abusing substances and what can be done to help them? These are important questions that need answers.
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medication on a doctors prescription pad

Are You Taking Your Prozac Safely?

Prozac, generic name fluoxetine, is an antidepressant that helps many people struggling with depression to feel better and to be able to live normal lives. However, if you need to take Prozac, you should know about the risks and how to take it safely. Prozac abuse, like flexeril abuse or lomotil abuse, is not always taken seriously. Drugs like these are not always considered to be habit forming, but they can be harmful and they can be addictive.
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Mexican Flag Waving

Is the ‘War on Drugs’ in Latin America Winding Down?

After decades of being caught in the crossfire, both figuratively and literally, the nations of Latin America are starting to rebel against the precepts of the war on drugs. In defiance of the United States, whose allegiance to military-style tactics in the struggle to cut off the flow of illegal drugs has been unbending, countries in Central and South America are asserting their independence and pushing hard for a change in course.
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Weight Gain Fears Make It Harder for Female Smokers to Quit

Female smokers who are worried about weight gain are less likely to attempt to quit smoking, according to a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Survey data from about 10,000 smokers in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia suggest that women are less likely to begin the process of quitting tobacco products if they believe that smoking helps them manage their weight. Continue reading