Big Pharma is rendering the street-corner drug pushers of our childhoods obsolete. AFP reports:
The United States is facing an epidemic of lethal overdoses from prescription painkillers, which have tripled in the past decade and now account for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
The quantity of painkillers on the market is so high that it would be enough for every American to swallow a standard dose of Vicodin every four hours for one full month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The unfortunate and in fact shocking news is that we are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription drug overdose in this country. It is an epidemic but it can be stopped,” said CDC chief Thomas Frieden. “Now the burden of dangerous drugs is being created more by a few irresponsible doctors than by drug pushers on street corners.”
The CDC Vital Signs report focused on opioid pain relievers, including oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone, better known as Vicodin, which have quadrupled in sales to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors’ offices since 1999.
Last year, 12 million Americans reported taking prescription painkillers for recreational uses, not because of a medical condition.
The epidemic is at its height among middle-aged white men, age 35-54, and American Indians or Alaska natives, the CDC said.
Rural and poor areas tend to have the highest prescription drug overdose death rates, and the severity of the problem varies widely from state to state. The drugs are highly addictive and people can build up tolerance quickly.