Tag: FDA

Painkiller Addiction Statistics Skyrocket in 2014

25% of All Painkillers are Abused

painkiller abuse statistics

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).

Younger people are overdosing more often…what’s going on?

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.

  • Rates of opioid addiction occur in 8-12% of individuals receiving prescriptions. That means that, on average, one of every eleven people prescribed a narcotic painkiller will become addicted to it. This isn’t taking into account those who buy the drugs illicitly.

  • Rates of opioid misuse occur in 21-29% of individuals receiving prescriptions. So, out of every five people receiving prescriptions, one will misuse or abuse them. Again, this doesn’t take into account people who buy painkillers on the street.

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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.

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    A Controversial New “Abuse-Proof” Painkiller

    The FDA Approved WHAT?

    In a bold and possibly rash move, the FDA approved a new “abuse-proof” form of a powerful opioid.

    hysingla opioid painkiller

    On November 20th, the FDA gave the green light to Hysingla ER, an extended release version of the popular opioid hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is the chemical name of the blockbuster drug Vicodin.

    Okay, so the government approved a hard to abuse painkiller. What’s wrong with that? If anything, we should be singing Hysingla’s praises. I’m not so sure. A closer look into Hysingla and its development reveals a troubling history.

    Learn the staggering effect of Vicodin on society

    Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

    Hysingla is the latest form of extended release hydrocodone. Following Vicodin’s huge spike in popularity (it’s currently the most prescribed and abused painkiller in the U.S.), it became clear something had to be done.

    Vicodin exposes its legitimate and recreational users to a host of negative side effects. These include liver damage, due to acetaminophen, and addiction. So, drug companies began working on a pure form of hydrocodone that was also “abuse-proof.”

    Fast-forward to 2013. The FDA, despite numerous doubts about its safety, approved Zohydro ER. Legislators, police officers, addiction professional, and even the FDA’s own advisory board claimed Zohydro presented a danger to users due to its high levels of hydrocodone (the highest strength contains fifty milligrams of the opioid).

    Once Zohydro hit the market, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency. It was reactions like these that prompted the pharmaceutical company Perdue to develop Hysingla.

    Not everyone is so sure this new drug is safe, though. Jane Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote the following

    “Prescription opioids with abuse-deterrent properties will not completely fix the prescription opioid abuse problem, but they can be part of a comprehensive approach to combat the epidemic.”


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    How is Hysingla “Abuse-Proof?”

    No matter what side of the Hysingla debate you’re on, we can all celebrate a drug that’s difficult for addicts to abuse. Surely we can all agree on that, right?

    Well, it turns out Hysingla isn’t actually that abuse-proof. In fact, Hysingla is difficult to crush. That’s it. It doesn’t turn to gel when mixed with water. It isn’t impossible to inject. It’s simply difficult to crush.

    Hysingla may need some better abuse-deterrent methods. Otherwise it’s destined to join the ranks of the many other “abuse-proof” drugs which aren’t too hard to abuse.

    Is there an end in sight for prescription pill overdoses?

    ”Abuse-Proof” Pills Aren’t Abuse-Proof

    Since the mid-2000’s there’s been a push to develop abuse-proof alternatives to popular opioid drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicodone, and you guessed it, Vicodin.

    abuse proof opioids

    These pills were simply too popular with addicts. People were overdosing left and right. A painkiller epidemic was born.

    So, Perdue and other pharmaceutical companies began to develop “abuse-proof” forms of many opioids. The only drawback, though, was that these abuse-deterrent pills were still abusable.

    OxyContin formulas started to turn to gel when mixed with water. Enterprising addicts figured out a way to extract the drug from the gel. Roxicodone pills were supposedly “un-crushable.” Once again, enterprising addicts learned how to crush them.

    Not to mention, as a specific pill became harder to abuse, addicts would simply switch to one that wasn’t so hard. This is why, by the mid and late 2000’s, we saw people switching from oxy to Dilaudid.

    This presents a powerful lesion. As long as opioid drugs are available, people will figure out ways to abuse them. It doesn’t matter if they’re “abuse-proof” or not.

    So, what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t an easy answer. Knowledge of the destructive effects of addiction helps. Shifting the focus of addiction from a moral failing to a medical condition helps. Increased access to substance abuse treatment helps.

    Now put all those things together and we can hope to see a real solution to American’s painkiller epidemic.

    He went from pills to heroin and homelessness. Read the recovery story of Jesse Schenker, world famous chef!

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