Painkiller prescriptions are on the rise and are turning into an addiction epidemic. Opioid pain relievers have caused 14,800 overdoes deaths in 2008 and that number is rising with the years.
Drug Enforcement Administration shows a dramatic rise between 2000 and 2010 from New York Staten Island to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the distribution of oxycodone. Oxycodone is the key ingredient in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan.
While the distribution of hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab, is rising in Appalachia and as well as in the Midwest.
According to ABC News, pharmacies nationwide received and dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. That’s enough to give 40 5-mg Percocets and 24 5-mg Vicodins to every person in the United States. The DEA data records shipments from distributors to pharmacies, hospitals, practitioners and teaching institutions. The drugs are eventually dispensed and sold to patients, but the DEA does not keep track of how much individual patients receive.
The Associated Press analysis of the drug addiction data was combined with census figures then determined sales per capita. They used drug data that was collected by the DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System. The DEA tracks shipments sent from distributors to pharmacies, hospitals, practitioners and teaching institutions and then compiles the data using three-digit ZIP codes. Every ZIP code starting with 100-, for example, is lumped together into one figure.
Many buyers for the painkillers are starting to cross over to a bordering state to have their prescription filled because of prescription drug monitoring programs. In 2006 only 20 states had the program. Now 40 states have the prescription drug monitoring program, but the problem is, those systems are linked together. So, when an abuser is flagged within one state’s system, they can simply cross over to another state and have their prescription filled. There is no federal monitoring of prescription drugs at the patient level.