America’s Huge Opium Problem: Pharmaceutical Companies

Drug overdose

It seems like we’ve been hearing a lot about Opioids lately. Although it appears there is a little bit of confusion on what that word means. So to be on the same page from here on out, “Opiate” is drugs derived from opium and their chemically related derivatives. The word “Opioid” are both natural and synthetic drugs with morphine-like characteristics. Opioids are commonly used for their analgesic properties to treat different grades of pain, ranging from mild to severe. They can be used to induce or supplement anesthesia, as cough suppressants, and help treat addiction.

Unfortunately, opioid prescriptions for chronic pain have been on the rise, which in turn increases opioid overdoses, abuse, and other long-term harmful effects. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States, going above and beyond motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the number of drug overdose deaths had steadily increased for more than a decade.

If done right, prescription painkillers can be used to treat pain issues after a surgery, an injury, or life-threatening health conditions like cancer. However, there has been a staggering increase in the use of prescription opioids for the treatment of lesser chronic pain issues. The most common drugs involved in prescription overdose deaths include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Methadone (when prescribed for pain)

According to the CDC, an average of 44 people lose their life from overdosing on prescription pain pills every day in the United States alone. Some of those deaths also involved Benzodiazepines (BZO). In fact, for just about every 100 people in the U.S. in 2012, there were 82.5 prescriptions written for some sort of opioid pain relievers and 37.6 prescriptions were including benzodiazepine. Another interesting statistic from the New England Journal of Medicine stated that prescription rates varied widely and were highest in the South.

It only takes a single prescription of some painkiller for people to become addicted and it becomes more difficult to stop the longer a person abuses it. Another interesting piece of information came in 2013 when it was revealed that nearly two million Americans abused prescription painkillers. It’s mind-blowing to know that each day; almost 7,000 people are treated in the emergency rooms of their local hospitals for using these drugs in a manner other than what is prescribed by their medical professional.

OPIStudies have shown that women are more likely to have chronic pain, therefore be prescribed painkillers, some at higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than most men. Although some people don’t consider taking too many prescription painkillers can stop a person’s breathing, eventually leading to their death. Here’s another mind-blower: America claims less than 5% of the world’s population, but we consume almost 80% of the world’s opioid supply.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) had estimated in 2010 that approximately 5 million Americans now abuse prescription pain medication. They also take it a step further by revealing that roughly one in 12 high school seniors abusing the narcotic Vicodin, and one in 20 are abusing Oxycontin. The initial perception by first-time users is that these pills are relatively harmless “medications” that are less addictive than heroin, and less likely to prompt an overdose. The truth is quite the opposite. With a little bit of research, the abusers could avoid the harmful side effects these and other drugs can do to them.

That large portion isn’t all just painkillers. No, in fact, another known drug of abuse that is derived from opium, known as Heroin, has more than doubled among many of the adults aged 18–25 over the past decade. There is an average of 9 out of 10 people who have used heroin that admit to having used at least one other drug along with it. Just about 45% of all those who used heroin was also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

In what sounds like good news could be considered as bad news, fewer patients are filling prescriptions for opioid painkillers, but are filling more prescriptions with more days of medication per prescription. A pharmacy benefits company by the name of Express Scripts examined claims for 6.8 million Americans who filled at least one opioid prescription for pain from 2009 to 2013. Their research has found:

  • nearly a third of all patients who admittedly take dangerous drug mixtures, they had prescriptions for both opiate and benzodiazepine.
  • Among small U.S. cities with less than 28,000 residents, between 12% and 18% of the populations had filled opioid prescriptions. The national average is closer to 4%.
  • Roughly half of people who took opiates for more than 30 days kept using them for at least 3 years.


Needless to say, it’s very important to keep tabs on a loved one or friend who may have a prescription for this type of medication. Not only for their safety, but depending on their job, lifestyle, or events, it could save another person from getting harmed or worse, dead. Once they start getting that tolerance, they may end up taking more if not under the direct supervision of their medical physician. Maybe even start mixing their meds with other pills or alcohol, which could intensify the effects of the prescription medicines and they may not even realize it. Another step to keep them in check would be to have them drug test to see if they are taking the correct amount or anything else with that prescription.

Drug testing is always a good policy for any business. I like to consider it as “Preventative Maintenance” to ensure quality is a priority. If you are looking into testing for Opioid usage and abuse with someone you know, Rapid Detect is here to help. We offer several different testing kits that can detect opioid usage (including heroin). In this day and age, with all the many ways an abuser can take opiate; it doesn’t hurt to cover most of your bases with 10 Panel Drug Test Dip Card. If you would like to know more about any of the testing kits we offer, feel free to call and speak with one of our friendly knowledgeable sales consultants at (888) 404-0020 weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm CT or send an email to [email protected]

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