You may or may not have heard that opioid painkiller use has skyrocketed into epidemic proportions, with deadly overdoses on the rise. For example, The Washington Post reported that between 1999 and 2014, deadly opioid overdoses among middle-aged white women shot up 400 percent. But it’s not just opioid use we have to worry about. In fact, anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines contributed to many of those deaths, even as much as a third of them in recent years.
We’ve recently reported on the tremendous overuse of prescription painkiller drugs in this country. Almost everyone knows someone on Vicodin, Percocet, or Norco. Some patients have trouble getting off the drugs, and part of the problem is over-prescribing. So, where is this over-prescribing coming from?
The U.S. is experiencing an epidemic in drug overdose deaths, the CDC says, and misuse of opioid painkillers are a big part of the problem. Since 2000, overdose deaths from opioids have risen 200 percent. In 2014, there were approximately one and a half times more drug overdose deaths than deaths from car crashes in the U.S.
Addiction to opioids such as morphine, heroin and prescription painkillers is a growing global problem. Generally, opioids have an important role in the treatment of certain types of pain, but they have inherent risks and side effects, including being highly addictive. Even infrequent use can lead to dependence.