In 2010, there was a peak in prescriptions for opioid painkillers in the United States. The early years of the 2000’s, as well as the late 1990’s are being seen as the height of the opioid prescribing epidemic which has now led to the opioid addiction epidemic we are currently facing. 2015 saw a giant increase in fatal overdose due to opioids, soaring above 50,000 fatalities. That number is projected to climb to over 60,000 for 2016 data. Interestingly, 2015 was a first year which saw a significant drop in opioid prescriptions, according to a new analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2010 and 2015 prescriptions for opioids- specifically those that were prescribing higher doses, a pointed problem contributing to the opioid epidemic- dropped by 41 %. Overall, opioid prescriptions have dropped 18% between 2010 and 2015. Despite the accomplishment, the number is still remarkably high. The amount of opioid prescriptions being written in 2015, even with the drastic drop, was still three times as high as the rate was in 1999, when the opioid epidemic was in its infancy. Ignoring the coincidence simply isn’t possible.
Addiction, especially opioid addiction, is gaining more mainstream attention than it has in years. For the first time, there is no specific demographic becoming addicted to life threatening drugs like prescription opioids. Though many counties are seeing higher rates of opioid addiction, prescriptions, and overdoses than others, there is no discrimination in opioid addiction and traditionally assumed discriminations in drug addiction are being proved wrong through the opioid epidemic. While the government has struggled to find a source for the problem, individual counties and state governments have taken action, knowing who a large part of the blame belongs to- doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Doctors have chronically over-prescribed opioids for years, increasing dosages to dangerously high amounts. Most doctors were under the influence of marketing representatives from pharmaceutical companies. Recent exposes into major pharmaceutical companies like Purdue, the maker of Oxycontin, have revealed that these companies knew their drugs were addicting and that higher doses would make the situation worse. Still they urged doctors to keep writing scripts for higher doses.
The New York Times cited the acting director of the CDC who commented that “…the quantity of opioids prescribed in 2015 would be enough to provide every American with round-the-clock painkillers for three weeks.
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