Get Addiction Help (888) 804-0917

The Facts About Rx Painkillers: An Emerging Trend of Abuse

This post was provided by Hickory Wind Ranch, who Texas sober living for residents of Austin, Houston, Dallas, and more.

As a drug or narcotic, Rx painkillers are perhaps one of the biggest problems in today’s addiction community. They’re prescribed for pain after injury or operation (which is necessary) and then all too often, the recipients get hooked on them often seeking out more of the pills through illicit means and moving on to more powerful, potent prescriptions. It’s a very common thread on popular culture as well. Dr. Gregory House of FOX’s Emmy award winning medical drama “House” is a Vicodin addict, which he started taking due to a medical problem with his leg. The story line supposes that he suffered this physical ailment 5 years prior to the first episode so the audience sees House’s pill addiction in media res. Likewise, Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” has a central character that suffers from pain killer addiction.

It makes sense that such a story arc finds its way into so many of our television shows. In a study released last year by the IMS institute for Healthcare Informatics, of the 10 most heavily prescribed medications in 2010, the overall most prescribed was Vicodin (the Hydrocodone and acetaminophen mix).[1] Populating the rest of the list are a group of weight management, cholesterol, thyroid, and diabetes pills – no other pain killer drug even comes close. This has been the trend for the last couple of years. Statistics show that Vicodin is prescribed upwards of 30 million more then the next drug on the list.

This raises the important question: is the Vicodin painkiller over-prescribed? As a prescription drug, Vicodin is largely used to treat chronic pain from either surgery or accidents or illness as mentioned before. With 130 million pills legally being prescribed in the U.S. with good reason (though there is a debate about whether or not Vicodin is being readily prescribed for pain), however, these drugs are finding their way into the hands of those who don’t need them. Inevitably, pain pills left over from previous prescriptions are subject for abuse. In a similar study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it was discovered that “more than 55% of non medical users obtained prescription pain relievers from a friend or relative for free” while “another 8.9% reported that they purchased prescription painkillers from a friend or relative” in 2010.[2]

The stats are staggering. Over a 10-year average – from 1998 to 2008 – prescription pill abuse increased a whopping 40%, and the increase hasn’t slowed down. As an opiate, Vicodin isn’t the most powerful painkiller. Other prescriptions such as Fentanyl and Percocet pack a harder punch and are much easier to overdose on, however, they’re certainly not as prevalent. At the root of this problem is not the potency of these drugs, but their prevalence. As prescription drug abuse increases so does crime, overdose death, and newborn addiction. Newborns born addicted to pain killers has tripled in the last ten years.[3]

The facts and figures of the emerging pain killer problem are many and varied. As the most prescribed pill in 2010, and the growing trend of abuse and proliferation among those who don’t need it, prescription pain abuse shows no real sign slowing down.