Prescription Drugs Claim More Lives than Illegal Street Drugs
In a collaborative report released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University Medical Center, it was revealed that accidental overdoses from prescription opiate-based pain medications such as OxyContin killed more people in 2007 than heroin and cocaine combined.
The interesting note is that not all people who have drugs in their systems at time of death are abusers. Toxicologist for the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office, Diane Boland, says that autopsies in Florida reveal that many of the dead had perfectly legal prescriptions for the drugs found in their systems. Many treatment programs have become prescription drug rehabs as the majority of people seeking treatment are addicted to prescription medications. The fact is that prescription drug use – whether obtained legally or not – is increasing.
Huge Rate Of Prescription Drug Deaths
The state of Florida in particular has had a huge problem with prescription drug abuse. In 2009, seven people every day were dying across the state as a result of prescription drugs. That same year, of the more than 8,500 deaths resulting from drugs, almost 80 percent were caused by perfectly legal prescription drugs such Oxycodone, Xanax, and Valium.
There are many factors playing a role in this epidemic. In Florida, the prevalence of “pill mills” has increasingly contributed to the problem. There, getting OxyContin is as easy as visiting your local grocery store.
Another contributing factor is the fact that prescription painkillers are more readily dispensed today for pain management in lieu of other alternatives, even by legitimate doctors. And, if your doctor refuses to fill your prescription, there are plenty of rogue pharmacies online that will. Prescription drug use is a huge cash cow, and drug manufacturers are also cashing in its popularity with the public. In fact, marketing for the drug OxyContin tripled from 1996 to 2001.
Dangerous Perception Of Prescription Drugs
A real problem lies in the way the public perceives prescription drugs. Users, including teens, have the perception that prescription drugs are not as dangerous as street drugs. The death toll from prescription drug use and abuse are proving that this view is flawed and absolutely not true.
In the state of Florida, lawmakers hope to combat the growing number of pill mills through a new program that would monitor prescriptions being dispensed. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is a statewide database that allows doctors and pharmacies to screen those who would otherwise jump from place to place to receive multiple handouts. The database was instituted last December.
Critics of the War on Drugs allege that it has let us down. While OxyContin users run free, those caught using marijuana remain behind bars. When prescription drugs are killing 300 percent more Americans than illegal street drugs, this doesn’t seem to make good sense. We need to take a closer look at the prescription drug epidemic and examine what we can do to stop it.