About 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.
Although men are still more likely to die of prescription painkiller overdoses (more than 10,000 deaths in 2010), the gap between men and women is closing. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women have risen more sharply than among men; since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was more than 400% among women compared to 265% in men.
This rise relates closely to increased prescribing of these drugs during the past decade. Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe, effective pain treatment.
‘Prescription painkillers’ refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.
The prescription painkiller problem affects women in different ways than men.
- Women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men.
- Women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men.
- Women may be more likely than men to engage in “doctor shopping” (obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers).
- Abuse of prescription painkillers by pregnant women can put an infant at risk. Cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)—which is a group of problems that can occur in newborns exposed to prescription painkillers or other drugs while in the womb—grew by almost 300% in the US between 2000 and 2009.
Deaths from opioid overdoses have jumped ….
Erin Brodwin, Feb. 28, 2017
In the last 16 years, more than 183,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
- In 2010, 29% of fatal overdoses involved so-called “natural” and “semisynthetic” opioids (morphine, oxycodone), while only about 12% involved methadone, a “synthetic” opioid.
Drug Overdoses Are the 9th Leading Cause of Death in the US
According to the U.S. surgeon general, more Americans now use prescription opioids than smoke cigarettes.
In Alabama, which has the highest opioid prescription rate in the U.S., 143 prescriptions are written for every 100 people.5 A result of this over-prescription trend is skyrocketing deaths from overdoses.
The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths, specifically, include8 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®).
As noted by Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”9
There are safe options to treat pain, but education — both among doctors and patients — is sorely lacking.
In 2015, 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses; 33,091 of them involved an opioid and nearly one-third of them, 15,281, were by prescription.
Why Are Pregnant Women Prescribed Narcotics?
A statistic that shows just how overprescribed and misused opioid drugs are is the prescription rate for pregnant women and women of childbearing age.
Despite carrying risks of pregnancy-related problems and birth defects, shockingly, nearly one-third of American women of childbearing age are prescribed opioid painkillers and more than 14 percent of pregnant women were prescribed opioids during their pregnancy.
Reasons for prescribing these extremely dangerous drugs include back and/or abdominal pain, migraine, joint pains and fibromyalgia. Clearly, if you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant, you should go to great lengths to avoid narcotic drugs.
Drug Industry Is Responsible for Mass Addiction
Many believe the drug companies that create and sell these drugs need to be held accountable for America’s rapidly escalating drug problem, especially since several have been caught lying about the benefits and risks of their drugs.
As noted by the Organic Consumers Association, the drug industry has “fostered the opioid addiction epidemic” by:
- Introducing long-acting opioid painkillers like OxyContin, which prior to reformulation in 2010 could be snorted or shot. Many addicts claimed the high from OxyContin was better than heroin.
From a chemical standpoint, OxyContin is nearly identical to heroin, and has been identified as a major gateway drug to heroin.
- Changing pain prescription guidelines to make opioids the first choice for lower back pain and other pain conditions that previously did not qualify for these types of drugs.
- Promoting long-term use of opioids, even though there’s no evidence that using these drugs long-term is safe and effective.
- Downplaying and misinforming doctors and patients about the addictive nature of opioid drugs. OxyContin, for example, became a blockbuster drug mainly through misleading claims that Purdue Pharma knew were false from the start.
As a result of these factors, tackling the overdose epidemic will likely require not only curbing doctors’ overprescribing practices, but also curbing the manufacture of dangerous illicit drugs.
Ex-DEA agent: Opioid crisis fueled by drug industry and Congress
Whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi says drug distributors pumped opioids into U.S. communities — knowing that people were dying — and says industry lobbyists and Congress derailed the DEA’s efforts to stop it
Oct 15, 2017, Bill Whitaker
Source: : https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-dea-agent-opioid-crisis-fueled-by-drug-industry-and-congress/
Now in a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post, Rannazzisi tells the inside story of how, he says, the opioid crisis was allowed to spread — aided by Congress, lobbyists, and a drug distribution industry that shipped, almost unchecked, hundreds of millions of pills to rogue pharmacies and pain clinics providing the rocket fuel for a crisis that, over the last two decades, has claimed 200,000 lives.
JOE RANNAZZISI: This is an industry that’s out of control. What they wanna do, is do what they wanna do, and not worry about what the law is. And if they don’t follow the law in drug supply, people die. That’s just it. People die.
“This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors’ offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs.”
Joe Rannazzisi is a tough, blunt former DEA deputy assistant administrator with a law degree, a pharmacy degree and a smoldering rage at the unrelenting death toll from opioids. His greatest ire is reserved for the distributors — some of them multibillion dollar, Fortune 500 companies.
They are the middlemen that ship the pain pills from manufacturers, like Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson to drug stores all over the country. Rannazzisi accuses the distributors of fueling the opioid epidemic by turning a blind eye to pain pills being diverted to illicit use.