FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
Category: Substance Abuse
As a Minnesota native I was devastated to learn of Prince’s death. It turns out he suffered from a percocet addiction. His addiction started innocently as a prescription from his doctor to treat his chronic hip pain. In fact, he was scheduled to see an addictionologist the day he was discovered dead.
America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, 40 Americans die every day from prescription opioid overdoses. The number of opioids prescribed in this country has quadrupled in the past decade. This problem is now out of control with both doctors and patients to blame. Years ago, the Joint Commision made pain the “fifth vital sign” and many physicians blame them for starting the epidemic. However, it is much more complicated. Many factors including marketing by pharmaceutical companies, increased access to care, patient empowerment, and legal issues have contributed to the increased use of opioids in this country. I used to prescribe large amounts of opioids a decade ago and personally contributed to this problem. Although thousands have already died, we can still save thousands by reducing the number of opioid prescriptions and treating patient on opioids and those addicted to pain killers.
A recent article in The Week caught my eye. The byline asks, “Why are so many working-class women in rural America dying in their middle age?“. The life expectancy of virtually every class of American has increased in the past half-century with the exception of rural women. In fact, 300,000 have died from from overdose and addiction in the past 8 years.
Why is this happening now….
“It’s a loss of hope, a loss of expectations of progress from one generation to the next,” said Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize–winning economist who had studied the data.
“What we’re seeing is the strain of inequality on the middle class,” President Obama said. “Erosion of the safety net,” Hillary Clinton said. “Depression caused by the state of our country,” Donald Trump said. “Isolated rural communities,” Bernie Sanders said. “Addictive pain pills and narcotics,” Marco Rubio said.
It is a sad story I have seen many times as a physician. The causes of addiction are as various as the people who become victim to its grasp. Regardless, the outcomes are tragically similar. The path to recovery is difficult and requires assistance. If you or a loved one suffer from addiction, I urge to seek professional help.
I remember when OxyContin was released by Purdue Pharmaceuticals in 1996. It was heralded as the best treatment for chronic pain. With millions spent on marketing, it became a very popular and very deadly drug.
The NY Times just published a great article on OxyContin titled “‘You want a description of hell?’ OxyContins 12 hour problem“.
I have had many patients complain that it doesn’t last the advertised 8 hours. It turns out, they were right, and Purdue knew as well. They hired an army of sales reps to convince doctors to never prescribe the drug every 8 hours (as it should be), only every 12 hours as their patent stipulated. Purdue has made 30 billion dollars on this drug and if they admitted it doesn’t last the 12 hours promised…. That would be the end of their patent.
Instead, they convinced doctors to increase the dose to cover the 4 hour gap. If you are a patient, it means an “excessive dose” followed by an excruciating return of pain hours before the next dose. Does this sound like a recipe for addiction? Some experts have called OxyContin an “addiction factory”. If you are on this drug and not getting the results you expected, talk to your doctor.
National Geographic also did a video on this highly abused drug.