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Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Painkiller Epidemic and the Economy

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) "Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American Adult around-the-clock for a month." 

         

"Nearly 100 American citizens die from prescription painkillers everyday or 36,500 a year"

Painkiller abuse results in more deaths than cocaine and heroine combined. Since 1999, prescription overdoses has increased 300%. With these numbers on a steady rise, by 2025 there will be nearly 200,000 overdoses a year. The drugs are being abused by all ages, from pre-teens to senior citizens. In 2010 nearly 2 million people reported using prescription painkillers non-medically for the first time within the last year.

This painkiller epidemic is not only affecting the users, it has a negative impact on our economy as well. Just like most drugs, opiates are extremely addictive. These users will do whatever it takes to obtain the drug, no matter what the negative outcome may be. Whether it is committing burglaries, robberies, thefts, or homicides.

Medicaid and Medicare fraud related to prescription drug use is costing the American tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. This is a major problem according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

As an example, Medicare beneficiary in Texas received prescriptions for a total of 4,574 hydrocodone pills (a 994-day supply) from 25 different doctors, reported by the New York Times.

The chemical dependency from opiates results in extreme withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the person, these symptoms may include:

  • Nausea                                 
  • Cold Sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Unbearable body aches and pain
  • Mood changes - Anger/Anxiety/Depression
  • Restless Legs
  • Insomnia
Opiate addicts can acquire these pills in many different ways, legally and illegally. In 2010, the CDC conducted a survey on how these prescription pills were obtained . The following pie graph shows the results.

                   Pie chart showing that people who abuse prescription painkillers get their drugs from a variety of sources: 55% obtained free from a friend or relative, 17.3% were prescribed by one doctor, 11.4$ were bought from a friend or relative, 4.8% were taken from a friend or relative without asking, 4.4% were obtained from a drug dealer or stranger, and 7.1% accounted for other sources.


Some users get multiple prescriptions by Doctor Shopping. According to Wikipedia, doctor shopping refers to the practice of a patient requesting care from multiple physicians, often simultaneously, without making efforts to coordinate care or informing the physicians of the numerous caregivers. By doctor shopping, the patient can obtain numerous prescriptions of painkillers. These prescriptions are usually sold on the Black Market or "streets" because of their high demand and huge profit margins.

Doctor shopping is illegal, but, there are many private practice doctors that benefit from these individuals. These particular physicians are crooked, and normally charge a flat fee for the visit and an inflated price for the prescription itself. Both parties are subject to significant criminal and civil penalties. Potential charges may include drug trafficking, possession of an illegal substance, unlawful distribution, and in the case of "over-prescribing doctors", manslaughter.

The amount of crime, deaths, and fraud this drug causes should have our Nation and Government on high alert. This drug causes more than 3 times the amount of deaths per year than guns and is also a contributing factor to gun violence. I believe we should be looking for more solutions to reduce the abuse of this drug. If the Government is going to spend hard earned tax payer money on something, they should spend it more efficiently. Instead of spending millions of dollars on more gun control laws, why not spend the money on cutting down on illegal prescription drug usage. This in result, will help cut down on crime, deaths, and government spending.

If you've read my Blog before, I often refer to the Economy. The way I see it, the Economy is a starting point, which will lead to homicides, suicides, gun violence, government spending, etc. being vastly reduced. Why not dedicate our time and energy to a cause that is going to result in a "Domino effect?" It's time our Government wakes up! So, President Obama, my advice to you is, think LONG TERM, think EFFICIENCY, and think SMART!











3 comments:

  1. Having worked in a leadership role in several hospitals, I can tell you that physicians (in particular ER physicians) are often put in a bind. While they know who the regular scum bag drug seekers are, ofter people travel from ER to ER in a huge radius to avoid being labeled a drug seeker. This makes it difficult for physicians to be able to distinguish from all cases. Until more integrated healthcare systems are able to track patients medication histories across any provider, this problem will continue to grow.

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  2. Yes Larry I agree. This is a huge problem, unfortunately I know first hand what these drugs can do to you. I. at one time was addicted to painkillers. Although, I didn't start taking them for the "high", I was in legitimate around-the-clock pain because of a bulging and herniated disk. From the start, I had a high tolerance to the painkillers which led to me running out of my prescription early. I've never went Doctor Shopping but I know people that have, most of these individuals had nothing wrong with them and the doctors were quick to hand out a prescription of Vicodin or Percocet with no questions asked. There has to be some way that the Government can crack down on these doctors but, I'm not to familiar with healthcare systems. It isn't so much ER physicians because usually they only give like a 3 day prescription. It is more, personal physicians and pain clinics that are the problem. As an example, I know a guy that went a 2 pain clinics a month, one in Toledo and one over the border in Michigan. The Toledo pain clinic gave him 60 Oxycontin 40 mg and 90 Percocet 5/325 for "breakthrough" pain a month. The Michigan pain clinic was giving him 90 Opana ER 20mg and 60 Percocet 5/325. All this was because of a broken bone in his finger from 2 years back. Now call me crazy, but that is extremely obsessive, don't you agree?

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