25% of All Painkillers are Abused
In an alarming new report from researchers at the University of New Mexico, it appears that approximately 25% of all opioid painkillers are used for something other than their intended purpose.
Think about that for one second. A quarter of all the prescribed painkillers are either misused or abused. That’s a mind-bogglingly high number. There are millions of painkiller prescriptions written each year. If each prescription contains thirty pills…you do the math.
Painkiller abuse and addiction in the United States is more than a crisis and more than an epidemic. It’s become an all out war. A war that, according to these new statistics, we’re losing.
Kevin Vowels, a PhD from UNM and the lead author of the study, had the following to say about his team’s research, “On average, misuse was documented in approximately one out of four or five patients, and addiction [was found] in approximately one out of 10 or 11 patients” (Psychiatry Advisor).
New Opioid Abuse Statistics
The departments of Psychology and Economics at the University of New Mexico conducted this new report, with help with the Department of Neurology at the University of Washington.
The universities examined studies of prescription opioids published in the thirteen-year period between 2000 and 2013. In total, they examined thirty-eight studies from sources like PubMed, Science Direct, and Google Scholar.
What exactly did they distill from this research? Well, Vowels and his colleagues drew two major conclusions. All the following data is taken directly from Vowel’s report, published in the journal Pain.
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Is the FDA Helping?
With at least 8% of those receiving opioid prescriptions developing an addiction, and over 20% abusing the pills, it would seem high time for the FDA to step in. Well, it appears this latest study may have galvanized them into action.
The FDA released a statement on March 25th detailing a set of rules for pharmaceutical companies to adhere to while producing opioid medications. These guidelines are the culmination of several years work by the FDA. They’re policies mandatory to all narcotic producing drug companies.
These guidelines are an attempt to make all opioids “tamper-resistant,” and “abuse-proof.” Pharmaceutical companies will be required to undergo a number of rigorous tests to prove their pills really are abuse-resistant.
Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, the Deputy Director of Regulatory Programs at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, had the following to say about his agency’s latest effort,
“The FDA is focused on the development of opioids with abuse-deterrent formulations…to combat opioid abuse and misuse, FDA is encouraging manufacturers to develop abuse-deterrent drugs that work correctly when taken as prescribed, but are formulated in such a way that someone cannot easily modify them for the purposes of abuse” (Psychology Advisor).
The questions remains though, is the FDA helping stem the tide of painkiller abuse? Do they actually care about the safety and wellbeing of patients who’re prescribed narcotic medication? Or are they simply acting in response to this latest damning report of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction?
The answer remains to be seen. It will become clear in the coming months and years whether the FDA is serious about enforcing their guidelines. It’ll become clear whether they’re actually attempting to effect change or if they’re merely covering their butts.
For the sake of people everywhere, let’s hope they’re serious.