Differing Views on Painkillers Reveal Deeper Problem

When you have the White House calling for an end to the epidemic of painkillers and the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner arguing that painkillers have some benefits you can see how the debate continues. While everyone seems to agree that painkillers are over-prescribed, no one is quite sure how to end the growing problem of painkiller abuse that is ravaging our country.

The White House cites that prescription painkiller abuse resulted more than 16,500 deaths in a year and it is imperative that we put an end to the amounts of these drugs being prescribed by doctors. While addicts can get the drugs off the street and often times move toward heroin, the addiction usually starts with being prescribed painkillers for aches and pains or after surgeries.

Originally, painkillers were not prescribed for any reason except recovering from surgery or for chronic pain brought on by a severe condition such as cancer. However in the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies began insisting that painkillers like OxyContin, could be used to treat more common forms of pain like arthritis or back pain. This was backed by doctors and so began the trend of over-prescribing opiate painkillers.

The push to get more doctors to prescribe painkillers would eventually get Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, in trouble. They were found guilty for hiding the high risks of addiction and dependence that can develop when taking such a drug. They were ordered to pay $634.5 million dollars in fines for their intentional deception. While this was a victory for those trying to get painkillers off the street, they are still being over-prescribed, and are still the foundation for many addictions.

To highlight the point that we are over-prescribing drugs like hydrocodone, Joe Rannazzisi, DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator, points out that America ingests 99% of the world’s hydrocodone. Looking at how other countries are treating patients suffering from chronic pain would be helpful in curbing our addiction to prescribing narcotics.

While the FDA may not want to put a stop to painkillers, they do acknowledge that something needs to be done. They are looking into changing the classification of opiates and examining more strict guidelines. This is a step, but many people insist that more drastic measures need to be taken to end the painkiller abuse in our country.