Opioids are painkilling medications that resemble opiates in their pharmacological effects. They are manufactured by big drug companies in the United States, and all too commonly prescribed by doctors to patients who are suffering pain. However, opioids such as Oxycodone, codeine, Dilaudid, Vicodin, and methadone, and morphine are highly addictive and often abused by patients or bought and sold illegally. They are also very dangerous if misused or taken outside of a doctor’s guidance. Unfortunately, doctors were highly incentivized by the pharmaceutical companies and medical establishment to acutely over-prescribe these drugs, abandoning other healthier, more holistic, and natural treatments that better serve patients over the long term.
The abuse of many opioids came to national attention in the early and mid 2000s, when overdoses, rampant addiction, and the criminality they bred reached previously unseen proportions. That led the Centers for Disease Control to classify prescription drug and opioid abuse as a national epidemic. The National Institute of Health echoed that assessment, calling the abuse of opioids a ‘silent epidemic.’
Here are some important facts and statistics about the opioid painkiller epidemic, and how chiropractic care can help:
The prevalence of opioid painkillers.
According to that same NIH, it’s estimated that between 5 and 8 million Americans regularly take opioid painkillers to manage long-term chronic pain.
In 2012, Americans filled approximately 260 million prescriptions for opiate painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s enough for every single American to have a bottle of pills.
When researchers analyzed data on prescriptions between 2009 and 2013, they found that at least 36 million people received at least one prescription for opioids.
80% of all prescriptions for painkillers were written by only 20% of doctors.
Deaths and overdoses from prescription painkillers.
Shockingly, about 60 percent of prescription opioid users also take them in conjunction with other medications, such as anti-anxiety medications, which can cause a fatal overdose when mixed.
In the decade leading up to 2012, deaths from prescription opioids more than doubled, to 16,000 every year.
In that same time, deaths from illegal heroin reached 6,000 per year, far less than legal opioids.
In only a four-year span, from 2004 to 2008, the number of emergency room visits for opioid abuse increased from 144,60 to 305,900, respectively.
Overdose deaths from legal prescription opioids have gone up at least 300 percent since 1990 and 400 hundred percent since 1999.
That rise in overdoses correlated exactly with a 300 percent increase in the sale of opioid painkillers since 1999.
In 2008, prescription pain pills killed more people than all of those who died from cocaine and heroin, combined.
By 2010, there were more than 160,000 hospitalizations for prescription opioid addictions every year.
And by 2012, more people ages 25 to 64 died from prescription drug overdoses than car accidents.
In 2013, 71 percent of overdoses from prescription drugs (16,325 deaths in all) were caused by opioid painkillers.
In 2014, about 46 Americans died every day from prescription painkiller overdoses.
Prescription painkiller addiction.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of admissions to treatment and rehab centers for nonmedical opioid abuse increased 500%, from 35,648 a year to 180,708 a year, respectively.
Of the patients who filled more than a 30-day supply of prescription opioid painkillers, about 50 percent of them were still taking them even three years later.
Studies estimate that at least 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from addiction and abuse disorders related to prescription opioid painkillers.
Who takes them and how do they get them?
Since the peak of the epidemic in 2012, there are fewer people filling prescriptions for opioids, but filling them for more volume and longer periods, an 8.4 percent increase.
Opioid use is actually highest among seniors, but adults between 22 and 44 fill larger volume prescriptions and for longer periods of time, indicating abuse.
Women fill opioid prescriptions at a 30% higher rate than men, but men take much higher doses and for longer amounts of time.
It’s so hard to identify and prevent painkiller abuse because too often, people obtain them from a friend or family member who has a legal and warranted prescription. In fact, only 2.3% of those surveyed admit buying them from an illegal source outside of the medical/pharmaceutical realm.
Combatting prescription painkiller abuse.
The small ray of light in all of this bad news is that a concerted effort of education, awareness, criminal crackdowns, and increased regulations has started to address the opioid epidemic. In fact, fewer Americans died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2012 than the year before, the first time in over a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there is still a long way to go to cure this silent epidemic, and chiropractic care can be an important resource in that effort.
Chiropractic is a safe and effective alternative to treat pain.
Treating pain with chiropractic care, whether from migraine headaches, lower back pain, or injuries, is particularly effective. Chiropractic realigns your body’s natural balance, allowing it to heal the source of the pain, not just masking the symptoms. Therefore it’s also much safer and than taking prescription painkillers and risking addiction, abuse, and overdose.
Come talk to us if you are experiencing any pain or want to understand the benefits of chiropractic care over prescription painkillers for treatment.