In 2016, U.S. pharmacies dispensed more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers such as Vicodin and OxyContin – enough for every adult American to have a full bottle of these pills. However, most people receiving these prescriptions report using only some or none of the pills. As many as 92 percent of people recovering from surgery stop taking their medications before the pills run out. Yet, only about one-quarter properly store or dispose of their unused meds – leaving the highly addictive prescriptions vulnerable to fall into the wrong hands.
The holiday season is meant to be a time of celebration, but, for many, it can take a tragic turn. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that every year between Christmas and New Year’s, over 300 people are killed because of drunk driving. However, alcohol isn’t the only substance partygoers may choose to consume while feeling festive. That being said, all those who think they are being safer by swapping a martini for marijuana before hitting the road are sorely mistaken.
Today’s opioid crisis knows no boundaries, especially when it comes to age. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that “prescription and over the counter drugs [including prescription opioids] are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.” Over the past 15 years, the number of children and teens hospitalized due to opioid poisoning has nearly doubled and it has been widely cited that most adults in treatment for opioid addiction started using illicit substances before the age of 18. These statistics make it clear that there is a need to effectively identify and treat addiction to opioids among young people in order to prevent the consequences of this disease from following them into adulthood, or worse — cutting their lives short.
Opioid medications, sometimes known as pain relievers, are the most widely prescribed class of drugs worldwide. While the United States represents about five percent of the world’s population, it consumes 80 percent of the global opioid supply. Not surprisingly, the U.S. is also suffering from the most severe opioid addiction and overdose crisis it has ever experienced. But, this didn’t happen overnight. Several factors contributed to the unprecedented use – and misuse – of opioids in this country.
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