Rx drug deaths triple in decade
November 1st, 2011
03:47 PM ET

Rx drug deaths triple in decade

Inappropriately used prescription pain medications kill 15,000 people in the United States each year, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're in the midst of an epidemic," says CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "Narcotics prescribed by physicians kill 40 people per day."

Deaths due to prescription painkiller overdoses now exceed the number of heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined, says Frieden, who is joining  Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the nation's drug czar, to raise awareness about how prescription drug abuse deaths have tripled since 1999.

According to the data released Tuesday, 1 in 20 or 12 million Americans age 12 and older has misused prescription painkillers like oxycodone (Oxycotin), methadone or hydrocodone (Vicodin) and middle-aged adults have the highest overdose rates.

Health officials say that enough prescription painkillers were prescribed last year to medicate every adult every four hours for an entire month, and this type of drug abuse is costing insurance companies up to $72.5 million each year. Just a few months ago, the CDC reported that opioid pain medication abuse accounts for the most common poisonings treated in emergency departments and nearly 1 million people in the United States are currently addicted to some type of opiates.

Kerlikowske calls prescription drug abuse "our nation's largest drug problems," which he recognizes can't be solved overnight.  More needs to be done, he said, to reduce the number of people starting to abuse prescription painkillers, which stands at about 5,500 each day, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Only Missouri and New Hampshire haven't set up prescription monitoring programs,  electronic databases that track all painkiller prescriptions in that state. Improving these monitoring systems and making them easily accessible to physicians and pharmacists in other states could allow easier spotting of  a red flag if someone is trying to get multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors or pharmacies.

States could also do more to shut down so-called "pill mills," where doctors or pharmacists inappropriately dispense these type of drugs.

Doctors should also screen their patients for substance abuse or mental illness, the CDC suggests, to prevent someone from getting addicted to these drugs. Also, physicians are encouraged to only prescribe the appropriate amount of painkiller, if necessary. So if someone needs only three days' worth of Vicodin for example, don't prescribe a 30-day supply.

Kerlikowske hopes that if appropriate measures are taken at the federal, state and local level, this drug abuse epidemic can be reduced by 15% in the next few years.

soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Jillian Galloway

    Wow, that's awful! Fifteen thousand people every year!! Compare that to inappropriately used marijuana which kills ZERO people every year and you have to wonder why marijuana is illegal while alcohol, tobacco and a lot of the prescription drugs are legal. Marijuana is also far LESS harmful than the federal marijuana prohibition which causes the arrest of 850,000 people every year and draws drug dealers into our communities and around our children!

    It is outrageous to have the federal government ban stores from selling legally-grown marijuana to adults when this ban *doesn't* prevent people from buying, selling and using marijuana and it *does* make marijuana easily available to children by creating large profits for illegal dealers where otherwise there would be NONE.

    November 1, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mitch

      And the correlation between the two in regards to this article is.... where, again?

      Sorry, I just get annoyed when people like you always automatically turn around one topic to something unrelated (i.e. legalization of cannabis)

      November 2, 2011 at 00:53 | Report abuse |
    • Brandon Edwards

      Mitch, cannabis is a schedule 1 drug because the government says it has no medical value, and is a very harmful drug.

      In reality, Rx drugs are highly addictive, and as proof of this article much deadlier than cannabis.

      This has everything to do with legalizing cannabis, especially when you consider the amount of money pharmaceutical companies lobby with to keep cannabis illegal.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • MarkCali

      Actually, the point was RX legal drugs are getting less scrutiny from FDA.

      Hello? Tamiflu? China? When are we going to stop the IR&D cost over-run to US Citizens, so we can make US prescription drugs more affordable (e.g. safer meds from US than from imported manufacturers) See the relation to the article?

      November 2, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      I think you have lost the plot Mitch. Many people that take prescription drugs long term, get hooked and become abusers suffer from chronic pain. In some cases, milder drugs and Marijuana could not only do as well but even better with much less risk.

      And before you start assuming things...I'm not a pot smoker, just don't see the point in something less harmfull than rap music being illegal.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
    • hahaha

      less harmful then rap music, gotta remember that one!

      November 2, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse |
    • R Burns

      I absolutely agree! This article doesn't mention marijuana in particular, but it has everything to do with the legalization of cannabis. I'm on Rx pain meds for some serious chronic pain issues and would greatly prefer to use marijuana to control not only the pain but symptoms of lupus since it is known to reduce or eliminate inflammation. Using cannabis would not only make my life more tolerable, it might serve to lengthen it. But it's illegal, so I use what my doctor is allowed to prescribe: opiates. There are so many of us in this situation, especially as the population ages, that for the government to continue to hold us hostage to insane propaganda is, well, insane. I will vote yes on every referendum to legalize what I recognize as the wisest way to age gracefully with a host of medical problems collected through the decades – none of which is going to go away.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Mitch – the correlation is this. Many of these people are prescribed these opiates BECAUSE they cannot get a prescription for medical cannabis, which in fact can help many of their conditions without the harmful side effects. Simply stated, cannabis kills NOBODY. If they choose to drive while medicated and die, that is different than dying from the drug itself, which this article is about. It then is no different than drinking and driving. It's not the drug that is killing, unlike these prescription meds.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      Maybe the 'overlords' should just start pumping the PAX into the buildings to manage our aggression.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You might want to check you facts on deaths caused by marijuana use. While the statistics hint that it's "less" dangerous than tobacco due to use patterns, etc, it's by no means safe. Within the past year, a woman was killed not far from where I live pushing a baby stroller on the sidewalk when a man who was heavily under the influence of THC went off-road and ran her over. Raising the argument that other "legal" drugs like tobacco and alcohol are just as harmful or more harmful doesn't make canabinoids any less harmful to the general public. Should THC and other canabinoids be considered for medicinal value to severely ill patients and be regulated as other prescription drugs? Perhaps. Should it be sold recreationally like tobacco and alcohol, that solves nothing and creates more of a problem than a solution to your ascribed scenario.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      New angle to think about it from...Marijuana should be the FIRST pain management prescription doctors try because it is safer than any other prescription pain medicine (if it were one).

      November 2, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Your claim is false. There is *no way* that inhaling smoke into your lungs and holding it there–regardless of what kind of smoke it is–cannot cause harm such as lung cancer or bronchitis, etc. True, people may not die instantly, but I doubt many people who take prescription drugs a few times die either–it's the long term abuse that gets them.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Arguendo

      I'm not sure where this "Big Pharma is against cannabis" is coming from. Having worked briefly in "Big Pharma," I can tell you that there are people who work in the industry who enjoy the 'recreational' use of cannabis.

      Second, I think we are confounding two things: medical and recreational drugs - although there is a special area of overlap we can note later. Medical drugs are dangerous, and I don't believe there is a question about it. That said, medical drugs are evaluated (roughly) based on whether their benefits outweigh their costs, e.g., a product that leads to a thousand premature deaths that saves a million lives may still be worth considering. That noted, drugs have differential efficacy as well and, as such, may not be equally appropriate for everyone. At the simplest case, a person who is not at risk for whatever the drug treats has no reason to subject themselves to the side effect risks of the drug; on the other hand, the benefit to certain patients may be far more substantial (e.g., the risks of the condition are exceptionally high, or the profile of the patient makes the risks of side effects relatively low).

      Recreational drugs (e.g., alcohol and tobacco) are also (arguably) dangerous. Classically, the benefits of these products are lower than those of medical products and the side effects are likewise less severe. So you would expect a higher incidence of adverse effects on medical products than on recreational products (per capita), but also a lower measure of positive effects on recreational products compared to medical products. It should be noted that recreational drugs have effects that also differ by patient/consumer profile. Alcohol abuse, for example, is commonly observed among people prone to clinical depression. However, we generally do not have physicians screening customers who are buying alcohol for depression (and disallowing them from purchasing alcohol). The main overlap between medical and recreational drugs may occur for drugs such as pain relievers, which are focused on improving quality of life, rather than curing illness. For this article in question, the pain killers are definitely high risk (addiction and overdose risk) - but that's the very reason why they are prescription based, i.e., they have regulated sales.

      If you are arguing for the legalization of cannabis sales, it would be good to specify exactly how you would expect them to be sold. Principally do you believe that they should be sold with little restriction (such as alcohol or tobacco) or under regulated sales (such as prescription medicines). Determining which category you believe cannabis should fall under requires not only an assessment of risks and benefits but also a consideration of whether there is a benefit to regulated sales relative to free sales, i.e., even if you are not prone to addiction are there people differentially prone to addiction that should not have access to cannabis.

      As a final note, the argument for the legalization of cannabis should stand on its own merits. I know it seems inequitable if a product, such as alcohol, is perceived as being far more dangerous and far less beneficial but is sold freely - but it's not clear that we should base new policy decisions on past policy (maybe) mistakes. Similarly,even if we believe that these pain medicines are sold, even if they shouldn't be that does not provide a strong argument for the sale of cannabis.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      Scott is ignorant to the many ways marijuana can be consumed. Smoking is just one option, there is vaporizing (turning the marijuana into vapors and inhaling this is not smoking), eating, there is THC candy, THC pills, oil you can rub on your body and the list goes on. Inform yourself before you trash a perfectly good idea.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Scott: Studies from UCLA of long term pot smokers have concluded no significant additional risk

      November 2, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |


    November 1, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Damon

      Dumb people don't understand the difference.

      November 1, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Idiots try to make points using ALL CAPS. Generally, it just makes them look less intelligent.

      November 1, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • jack

      People who use marijuana "Go to far more dangerous drugs" like oxy because the black market sells them on the same shelf.

      November 2, 2011 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
    • Yo

      i smoke weed and all my friends, not one of us abuses any other drug in any way, not even alcohol which it seems ur on

      November 2, 2011 at 00:15 | Report abuse |
    • supergeezer

      There is no evidence to support your claim, only the lies propagated by the dea. There IS a growing body of data that show that cannabis users use LESS of all other drugs, including alcohol and all the prescriptions drugs that this article refers to. The problem is, big pharma is not about to give up it's gravy train that these drugs provide and has spent billions to keep cannabis illegal. People are going to use recreational drugs, it's just another facet of american's "pursuit of happiness", and no power or law can stop it. It is a shame that such a benign drug as cannabis is illegal because if it were legal, the death by od numbers would plummet.

      November 2, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • jesse

      Pharmboy's a troll, people. Stop feeding the trolls.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • Dreamer96


      That argument that "pot leads to more dangerous drugs" goes back to the 1950's, because you had to deal with the under ground drug dealers to buy the pot, and those guys would also sell you the other drugs, to turn you into an addictic and create a steady customer....So it has always been where you had to buy the drugs that was the biggest problem..

      It cracks me up that so many legal companies today will sell the public other products that are legal, but habit forming, like cigarettes, alcohol...

      November 2, 2011 at 12:47 | Report abuse |
    • hahaha

      Please leave the 1950's

      November 2, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      The largest statistical correlation they can muster in the drug war's propaganda boils down to 'when someone breaks the law and buys pot they are more likely to try other illegal drugs'. So put it on the shelf next to beer.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • Dreamer96

      And what was Rush Limbaugh addicted too again? And what did he do to get more?

      November 2, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • notatall

      Drinking the koolaid, huh pharmboy? Legal medicinal users do not go on to addictive, illegal drugs. There are no true facts to back up your statement.

      November 2, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  3. Damon

    Legal or not, you will never be able to take the "recreation" out of drugs. Prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illegal ones, if not more so. The real danger is that prescription drugs are considered medicine and the illegal ones are considered evil. It doesn't make sense to blame inanimate substances for bad human behavior. Do we lock up kitty cats because they love catnip? Who knows what that stuff does to them! They sure go after it like a drug fiend, and then purr for hours after, some of them anyway.

    November 1, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Hanna

    I think if people want the sense of euphoria & calm that comes with pain killers they should switch to anti-psychotic medication. I'm on a low dose of an anti-psychotic for sleep and when I take pain meds I do NOT feel a sense of euphoria or well-being. The anti-p certainly does give that in spades. In fact I don't understand how people become addicted to pain killers. Try a psych drug. Happy happy joy joy.

    November 1, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • doc

      Interesting; the atypical antipsychotics cost abuout $500 a month; give or take. Do we really want to pay this for 15-18% of the population who qualifies as having mental illness, or should we just make these available to everyone who wants to feel mellow? It has to be mentioned these drugs have many life threatening side effects – from diabetes to weight gain, etc...

      I suggest a good run, some push-ups or even a hundred or so jumping jacks.

      November 2, 2011 at 07:48 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Why do people alter their minds? What makes them want out? By altering their mind is a form of out correct? Why not seek Gods power in all you do? Look into Gods truth you will find all your answers even in healing. By the strips of Jesus Christ I am healed. It’s powerful truth.

      November 2, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Kay, you trollin' fool!

      November 2, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
  5. donny

    be nice if they fixted it in ky so they cant get pain pills here they get like 120 at pain clinics to many. one a day is plinty then thats really to many unless you got cancer or something.

    November 1, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lucy

      What??? Spelling, punctuation and grammar matter - I have no idea what you are attempting to convey.

      November 1, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse |
  6. c s

    How many people are killed by other prescription drugs? How many suffer intractable pain and are persecuted by the cops? If you are rich and famous, you can get all the pain killers that you need. If you are poor and suffering in pain, you are a drug abuser and get thrown in jail. Billionaire Howard Hughes was in a airplane crash and used massive dose of pain killers to control his pain.

    "While the need for chronic pain treatment is evident by epidemiologic surveys from many countries, countless persons continue needless suffering due to lack of pain treatment. One is a bias against opioid drugs, and the false belief that persons who take opioids are “addicts”. Modern definitions essentially relegate the term “addict” to persons who take opioids for non-pain purposes. The term “pseudo-addiction” is now the term properly used for those persons who seek pain relief by patronizing a variety of sources to obtain opioids because they lack a regular, medical source of treatment with opioids. Perhaps the most famous “pseudo-addict” was Howard Hughes. He was involved in a plane crash in 1946 and suffered severe chronic pain as a result of facial and neck fractures and third degree burns of the upper torso. His subsequent post-trauma neuropathies are now commonly referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. They were so severe that he often could not brush his teeth, comb his hair, shave, or wear clothes or shoes. He survived 30 years taking about 200 mg equivalent of morphine a day for pain control. At this time the author is treating a cohort of severe, chronic pain patients who have taken high, daily opioid dosages for 20 to 30 years. As did Howard Hughes, these patients lead high quality, productive lives despite high dose opioid treatment. Severe, chronic pain, per se, and unrelated to its underlying cause, has life shortening and debilitating complications that are caused by uncontrolled electrical conduction, excess sympathetic discharge in the autonomic nervous systems, and excess pituitary-adrenal hormone secretions. Pseudo-addicts are easy to clinically differentiate from bonafide opioid addicts and treatment facilities should differentiate between the two. We need a world wide humane movement to provide life-time, opioid, medical management for persons afflicted with severe, chronic pain that can only be controlled by opioid drugs" see http://www.europad.org/journal/2008/Tennant%2010%283%292008.pdf

    November 1, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • R Burns

      Thank you for this comprehensive explanation! I'm in the category you describe, but my doctors are willing to prescribe only a limited amount of pain medication due to the pressures they are under. I am legally disabled but, because I do have some pain control, I am able to continue to show interest in things outside myself, provide handmade family cards and gifts and take care of my own life. This is a gift to my family as well!

      November 2, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      people who abuse pain meds are making it increasingly more more difficult for people who have true chronic painm to function. I have had PsA (psoriatic arthritis) for ten years . It has gotten to the point where I have ended up on the floor doubled over in pain because docs are afraid to prescirbe pain meds to ANYONE. My rheumatologist won't even write scripts for them..

      November 2, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
  7. Jim P.

    I'm not sure why this is a problem. People who do stupid things die. That's how nature works. You read the label, it says taker two a day. You take six, you die, your problem, not mine.

    This willr esult in people with genuine need being denied the pain relief required because there is some off chance they will abuse it or because some other fool did abuse it.

    Stupid people will always find a way to off themselves. That's why hair dryers warn you not to use them whole showering and why my office stpaler has stamped into it "Warning! read Operator's Manual before use!" on a small desk stapler. Not even electric.

    You can't fix stupid.

    November 1, 2011 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • isadore

      right on!

      November 2, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
  8. Ricky

    Please change the typo in the 4th paragraph. I am assuming you mean hour not your.

    November 1, 2011 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dr Bill Toth

    Would love to see the stats on properly prescribed chemo therapy and other classes of drugs.

    November 1, 2011 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Stefanie

    Maybe this will help eliminate some of the 7 billion people overpopulating our earth, which has been all over the news this week. But seriously, I'd like to see a report on how many people die of other causes each day. Heart disease, cancer, car accidents, suicide, murder, etc. probably claim just as many, if not more, lives each day. Quit trying to scare us, CNN.

    November 1, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      Dead people?...It's the living that have to deal with addiction. It destroys not only the addict, but the family and friends of the user! Death for an addict is sometimes the only way out of the downward spiral caused by drug and alcohol abuse! It has an effect on each and every one of us. I don't know about you, but virtually every family that I've known, rich or poor ...famous or not, has had their life impacted by the misuse of drugs.

      November 2, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  11. Fred

    reports in medical journals and other sources put deaths in US from medical errors well above 100,000 per year. Additionally deaths from prescription drugs taken as prescribed result in between 90,000 to 300,000 deaths annually in US. Obviously, we are consumming way too many pharmaceutical drugs of limited value and seeking too much medical treatment.

    November 1, 2011 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jo

      that's a 210,000 person difference. what kind of average (or estimate) is that?

      November 1, 2011 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  12. gerry

    truth is it's all about money- drugs to people for money. God is going to have one hell of a pay day for this.

    November 1, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mitch

      You obviously don't know anything, but nice try.

      November 2, 2011 at 01:02 | Report abuse |
  13. Valerie

    I suppose that is not counting the people who sell opioids to their friends or whomever they can find to make $50-$100 a pill, thereby causing the deaths of the unfortunate kids to buy a pill for a night of fun and become addicted [just like that] later turning to heroin on the street because it's much cheaper to get that fix that their body now needs. Think I'm being over dramatic? This happens all the time. How many of those kids overdose at a later date. You can add those deaths to the tally.

    November 1, 2011 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yo

      wow ur smart, 50-100? really? lol try 2 bucks a pop, 50-100 would make ppl quit lol, only thing sells that much is oxy, 2$ per mg

      November 2, 2011 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
    • hahaha

      Yo, it doesnt make them quit.. just move onto H

      November 2, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      The oxys are worth that much, vicodin or hydrocodone not so much. That is why there are heroin addicts, because it's cheap compared to the pharmaceutical grade. And guess who protects the poppy crops in Afghanistan.

      November 2, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
  14. Dr Dean Elbe

    Its official – prescription opioids like oxycontin are the biggest abuse/overdose problem. Accidental drug overdose deaths have increased 5-fold since 1990. Learn more from this myMediaPharm podcast: http://bit.ly/MP-ADO published a year and a half ago.

    November 2, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ron

    I take Hydrocodone daily for lower back pain. I have taken it long enough now to where it barely helps me. I have to
    constantly watch myself so as to not over medicate. I don't know if i can keep going at this pace and don't know what
    else to do. I have had several different type treatments to no avail. I have been to several doctors including a neurosurgeon
    to read an MRI for me. He says my back looks fine. I don't know what point I'm trying to make........I just wanted to share.

    November 2, 2011 at 02:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. mind0fcha0s

    Making it harder to get the pills isn't going to help. A that's going to do is push addicts into the dealers hands. The first thing that needs to happen is they have to get all these politicians hands out of the pharmaceutical companys pockets. Then start making cures and fixing what's causes the people pain instead of just "treating" it. And also start holding these Dr's accountable.

    November 2, 2011 at 03:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • R Burns

      There are many chronic pains that cannot be fixed. How do you repair a shredded nerve or restore a collapsed vertebra? How do you stop the body from destroying itself with autoimmune disorders (I have the answer to that one, but nobody wants to hear it: ban the use of any chemicals, organic or otherwise, in food production, processing and packaging)? Can you replace a lost limb or restructure the brain to desensitize when too much pain is perceived, without destroying the function of the organ? I think we're doing pretty well with what we've got, if people would stick to the prescriptions their doctors give them. The philosophy that "if a little does a little bit of good, then a lot will do a lot of good" destroys! In the 1960's my grandfather took a whole bottle of aspirin to try to alleviate lost limb syndrome and ended up with a full-blown pshychotic episode, lucky he didn't die from it. You can't teach people wisdom, and you can't protect people from themselves. That shouldn't affect the availability of real medication for those who are responsible.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse |
  17. sam

    In 1988, 25,000 Americans were killed in auto accidents involving alcohol. More than 500,000 were injured
    And what do they do about this ? NO MORE TAX,Advertise Checkpoints,Let it to this day to be advertised,and COnsumed and sold where Children are Present..

    November 2, 2011 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Bebo

    It is not the opiod in the pain medication which kills, it is the tylenol. Tylenol was added to the medication to bring it down to a schedule III and to supposedly deter people from overdosing. Soon enough, people were overdosing on the tylenol.
    It takes a pretty large dosage of hydrocodone to cause a death, but about half as much for tylenol to shut the liver down. Add a couple of drinks and whoops, you are a statistic.

    November 2, 2011 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J

      Thank you for pointing this out. I was looking through all the comments just trying to find one person that realized it's the acetaminophen that causes so much damage. Yes you can overdose on opiates but it's much much easier to do so with acetaminophen.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  19. larry5

    So, this is a measure of how successful our drug companies have become? Don't treat problems and heal patients just drug them.

    November 2, 2011 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. BillRubin

    Doctors need to make sure their patients are not getting oxy's from other sources (other doctors, off the street, friends/family), and that patients are not taking more than the prescribed single dose. Those are 2 major risk factors for overdose, in addition to prior substance abuse and psychiatric illness. Some suggested ways to fix this is by the doctor limiting the interval of prescription (eg. no more than a 1 week supply), centralized distribution (eg. electronic opiod registry), or by saying no to the patient. The problem is that, respectively, the latter 2 methods infringe on patient confidentiality and can be difficult with aggressive patients threatening lawsuit.

    November 2, 2011 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karma

      A one week supply? Really? Have you ever had to pay for a doctor's visit? Or take time off work to go to the doctor? You have to actually visit the doctor in order to get these prescriptions legally. Let me see: four or more doctor visits per month, plus the Rx co-pay (if you have insurance) four or more times per month. When you're in chronic pain, it's hard enough to get out to work and do other life tasks such as grocery shopping, let alone go to the doctor and the pharmacy every week. Try to find an employer that will put up with you being off work for one day a week so you can go to the doctor. I would rather take my chances on the street if that were the rules.

      November 2, 2011 at 11:41 | Report abuse |
    • BillRubin

      Karma, you are mistaken. I did not say the patient should visit the doctor weekly for a new prescription. What I am saying is that, for certain individuals, the pharmacy could dispense the medication in weekly (or monthly, or daily) amounts to limit the amount available to the patient. Doctors often write "dispense weekly" on a 3-month prescription. That doesn't mean the patient has to visit the doctor weekly, it means the patient has to see the doctor in 3 months for a new prescription, while the pharmacy dispenses a week's supply at a time. The rest of your statement is based off of your incorrect assumption and is therefore moot.

      November 2, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse |
  21. Fredward

    Pain that can be stopped must be treated with whatever tools exist. Stop blaming these valuable medications which are a valuable tool in the medicine tool kit. the above poster is correct BTW, the acetaminophen is the worst component of these medications.

    November 2, 2011 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Whatnow

    My best friend has a back problem. She now has put herself on a walker and lives on pain medication, anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, among other medications. When I went to the doctor with her, he told her to stand up straight, get off the walker and start moving. She won't do this and continues to use the medications. She is no longer herself, even though she thinks she is the same. She sleeps alot. She retired early so now she can stay in bed all day if she wants. She goes to a "pain clinic" to renew her medications. Mostly, she doesn't even have to see the doctor. Maybe she needs some of the medications, but I bet exercise and diet would go a long way to helping her. Maybe if the doctors would cut down on her medication she would get up and move. I miss my friend.

    November 2, 2011 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. laurie

    i think the docs should take a minute to actually look at their patient and talk to them for longer then 5 min and maybe they would be able to tell if a person is in pain or not, if they are in pain look into their records see if things match up then right the script just enough till they can be checked again it would be best if the docter cared enough to even look long enough at aperson to see whats going on , we pay our insurance and if im in pain where i need to see a docter i exspect to be treated like a human not a junkie docters wake up

    November 2, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • robert

      they get you hooked they make more money , phiser pays doctors to " promote " thier product

      November 2, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  24. The Dude

    And Pot still hasn't killed a single person.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. William Shattner

    The most dangerous and deadly chemical on the planet is still Water. Let's ban it and try to destroy all of it!

    November 2, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. robert

    doctors give out somas and vicadans like candy . thier very addictive, you start with a little pain and insurance and they see $ signs, befor you know it your an addict. the only time a doctor gets in trouble for this is when it happens to someone like michael jackson or anna nacole. i tried to even get wallgreens pharmacy to flag my wife not to fill her scripts after 3 rehabs, no one would help she died may 2009 from somas

    November 2, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kay

      What happen to common since? God gave it to everyone? People fail to understand there placing their one life in the hands of a drug maker. Don’t you tell your children not to take candy from strangers? What are the grandparents and parents doing? Look to all that God gave you naturally if it’s not natural don’t take it. Lean on trust in not your own understanding but your creator God! It’s as simple as that!

      November 2, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
  27. Opiophile

    Not everyone who takes opiates without a doctor's blessing is an addict. All those people on SSI living off of $660 a month need some way to supplement their income. Hawking off half their meds to the neighbor for $5 each creates a win-win situation. They get extra cash in which to stimulate the economy and get by-and the neighbor gets some help for the aches and pains the doctor doesn't want to hear about because they are normal when you do heavy yardwork. The government will never stop the sideways distribution.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dusty

    Doctors do not exist anymore. There is no difference between a doctor and a drug dealer. If you think POT has anything to do with this you are retarded. Drug companies are today's doctors, nobody tries to find the cause of sickness, they just treat the symptoms. On another note, wouldn't it be beneficial to drug companies and their wallets if all of us were addictied to Hydrocodons?

    November 2, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BillRubin

      So the next time you need emergency surgery, you are going to a drug dealer instead of a surgeon?

      November 2, 2011 at 20:20 | Report abuse |
  29. sal

    ...veal parmigiana on some fresh italian bread.......kills pain, psychosis, fawgettabowdit.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Byrd

    Oh, but it's okay because the dealers of death are pharmaceutical companies that report their profits on Wall Street. Interesting correlation when death equals profit. But then what else is new....

    Just keep the kids off marijuana...or better yet, throw them all in jail for so selfishly staying alive and not contributing to Big Pharma's unholy profits.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Dreamer96

    You make a drug based on opium, a very addictive drug, and are surprised it is habit forming...WOW..who would have thought that.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. michelle

    so many good points in the comments. for the most part it isn't the meds themselves it is the that they are taken improperly. my husband has had mutiple back surgeries and depends on pain meds to functionon a daily basis. he has morphine available and hasn't taken one for months. he does however use the oxycodone several times a day and muscle relaxers at night. me and my kids would suffer greatly as well as my husband if these were not available to him. my step-dad who has terminal cancer–no more treatment available, except to keep him comfortable. this is where the pain meds are really necessary and can you believe that after 2 months of 5mg oxycodone every 6 hrs when the doc upped it to 10 mg every 6 hours the insurance company had the nerve to say NO. really....he's dieing of cancer and you are telling him he can't be comfortable. yes he is going to build up a tolerance and the pain is going to increase. Who cares, let him die comfortable and not in agony. all the reulations in the world won't stop the abusers from getting what they want.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. JT

    Or you could legalize marijuana and give people an alternative that won't kill them.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. peeperga

    Not surprising. Opiates/pain pills are crazy addictive and are over prescribed. Sad thing is all the drug seekers make it tough for the ppl with legitimate pain to get treated.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. TheZog

    ...and that does not include generic drug deaths. What people do not know is that our wonderful government permits a generic drug to be within 75% to 125% of the original formulation. This means that we are being constantly under-dosed or overdosed every time. A friend just had a stroke because she used a generic drug to treat her problem which was supposed to prevent the stroke. Also, Warafin, a generic of Coumidin, a blood thinner, was almost pulled from the market because of a lot of deaths. But campaign contributions kept it on the market. Buy cheap clothes, not cheap drugs. Caveat Emptor.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. B

    And Marijuana is illegal for what REASON?.. As you can see the legal drugs are worse and more abused. Get with it.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. realdeadl

    prescription pain medication and adhd prescription drugs are the gateway drugs to heroin and cocaine.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Southerner01

    I honestly do not understand why anyone would want to take narcotic pain killers unless they needed them. I took Percoset for 4 days after my hernia surgery and hated it. As soon as the pain subsided enough to where I could stand it, I stopped taking them. They make it hard to think clearly, cause confusion and dizziness and made me feel tired. All around unpleasant experience.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. boka

    And Marijuana is illegal. This country is so absurd it's not even funny. People should be off these drugs and be using marijuana to heal their bodies and minds.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. B

    This has been going on for a very long time, its just been ignored. No-one ever wants to touch it because its legal to get these drugs and there are a lot of people making huge amounts of money off of them. From the Doctor's who prescribe them all the way up to the large pharmaceutical companies who make them. Its all legal.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Caliban

    I had my appendix out in 2004, the doctor gave me pain meds, I didn't touch any of them, I bought herb instead, worked like a charm as I knew it would since I have been smoking herb forever, and no, I don't drink alcohol. I know at least five friends who are now alcoholics and pill poppers (prescribed of course, they're depressed people, LOL isn't anyone just sad or blue anymore), but hey, at least the pharmaceutical companies got rich, right?

    November 2, 2011 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jeremy

    I will stick with Marijuana. Works better, safer and far more enjoyable.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. The Lunatic

    And we still managed to hit a global population of 7 billion.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Ron Mexico

    Pot is still illegal because all you hippies would just sit around all day smelling bad and smoking pot.

    Welfare is strained enough as it is, without a bunch of freeloading worthless potheads.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. strange

    I would think that smoking marijuana would increase your risk for lung cancer significantly.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Royalsampler

      But you would be wrong.

      November 2, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
  46. Andrea M

    Eh, pot, pills, I say take whatever you prefer. I've found I get distinctly different effects from pot and opioids, it's sort of heavy vs. marshmallowy. So do whatever you prefer. Just don't get addicted and don't do it to the point of death. Quite simple really.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Dave2

    I am a chronic pain sufferer due to several herniated disks in my neck, neuropathy, arthritis, and some other crap going on in that area. I take opiods, as prescribed because I have awful pain, I am probably somewhat physically addicted. I have tried other means of pain control, shots in the spine twice, physical therapy etc... The only (as someone alluded to) humane way to treat chronic pain is the use of opiods as of now. I am sorry for those who abuse and die, but read the label, dont overuse it, and if you still hurt, call the doctor. I see a 'pain interventionist' not one of those drug mills. He is an MD with people with all kinds of physical pains, he is kind, gentle, and does all he can to mitigate pain. There are a lot of us out here, so don't forget we rely on these meds to survive (I work without too many modifications).

    November 2, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. douglas.garnett@gmail.com

    being an addict myself [or former addict] i never understood the hypocrisies that our country embraces. alcohol is THEEE most dangerous of all yet it's no big deal, though there are more alcoholics here than all other drug users combined. marijuana was here before we were and no one has overdosed from smoking it. the only reason street drugs like heroin are illegal here is because the pharmacies can't make a buck off it, so instead they make us pay for their own brand of heroin. which is usually more dangerous anyway.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Ian

    There are over 7,000,000,000 people in the entire world....if these people are dumb enough to use a prescription drug to cause a fatal outcome...oh well...Its their life and trust me, their are plenty of other things to worry about. Drug companies will always find that way to sell their prescriptions so...move on to something more important.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. JMysterio

    Marijuana is harmless except for side effects like short term memory loss and.....uh.....I forgot what I was going to post....

    November 2, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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