America Consumes 80% of the World's Prescription Painkillers

By John Lavitt 09/30/14

Though ranking 24th in literacy and dead last among developed nations in healthcare, the U.S. is number one when it comes to taking prescription drugs.

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Congressional testimony by the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians recently revealed that Americans consume a staggering 80% of the world's painkillers.

According to the BBC, this high percentage translates into more than 110 tons of addictive opiates consumed every year. Although pharmaceutical opiates such as OxyContin and Zohydro are legal with a prescription, they also have proven to be incredibly addictive.

In the 21st century, the number of users of painkillers has increased 600% in the United States. Crimes committed by drug abusers addicted to oxycodone and hydrocodone, the main ingredients in most pharmaceutical opiates, have skyrocketed as well. The prescription painkiller plague has become the gravest drug problem in the country.

Doctors in the United States prescribe more than 259 million prescriptions for painkillers annually. Behind the façade of the American dream, the first-world country seems to be suffering from far more pain and disease than much of the rest of the world. As a result of this flood of painkillers, prescription drug overdose is now the leading cause of acute preventable death in United States, exceeding even the death rate from car accidents.

A further problem is prescription drug abuse often becomes a gateway for illegal drug addiction. When addicts can no longer convince doctors to write scripts, they often move on from opiate painkillers to heroin. Without question, if the plague of prescription painkiller abuse in the United States is not effectively addressed, the problem is bound to worsen.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.