By Courtney Vaughn
A federal health agency is reporting a spike in prescription painkiller abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription pill abuse kills more people annually than heroin and cocaine combined.
“Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the U.S. in 2008. This is more than three times the 4,000 people killed by these drugs in 1999,” a CDC report states. The findings led the agency to declare the issue a public health epidemic.
In 2010, 12 million Americans surveyed by the CDC said they used prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes within the last year.
Painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin are opiates. In addition to adverse health effects, they can become highly addictive.
“Along with changes to the body’s organs from abuse of painkillers, there are also psychological and psychosocial implications,” Donna Johnson, the registered nurse who directs emergency services at Hi-Desert Medical Center, said. “The medication becomes the center of the addict’s life, and the pursuit of more medication to feed the addiction.”