Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse

Photo Attribution:
By J. Troha (Photographer)
[Public domain or Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Originally published: Dr. Wen’s blog:

Original author: Leana Wen, MD MSc

Recently, I learned of some shocking statistics:
  • Every year, pharmacies dispense 257 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers — one for every adult American.
  • While the U.S. makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population, Americans consume 80 percent of its total opiate supply.
  • 1/3 of people who used illicit drugs for the first time start by using a prescription drug.
  • Prescription narcotics kill 6 times more people per year than heroin.
As an emergency physician, I prescribe narcotic drugs for pain every day. I began to wonder how complicit doctors are in furthering this epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

My recent article in NPR explores this struggle, between relieving people's pain, and possibly fueling this worsening epidemic.

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