New Book Links Prescription Painkillers to Drug Overdoses

Rx DrugsNot too long ago, it was announced that celebrated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent heroin overdose. What fewer people know is that, on the same day, roughly 100 other Americans also likely died from drug overdoses — statistically speaking.  Overdosing  is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides.


Dr. Keith Humphreys, one of the nation’s leading addiction researchers and a professor of psychiatry at Stanford has vocally said that:  “The U.S. accounts for  99% of the world’s hydrocodone consumptions is a spectacular level of prescribing.  U.S. prescribers also write more prescriptions for opiate painkillers each year than there are adults in the United States.  When an addictive substance is prescribed on that scale, there will inevitably be substantial leakage out of the medical system. This would be true even if every single doctor proved to be honest and well-trained. And every single doctor isn’t.”


Dr. Humpreys also goes on to say: “A small number of criminal doctors realized that this was a cash cow and started setting up pain pill mills in places like Florida that had weak regulations.  The clinics advertised nakedly with promises such as, “No pill, no pain. Cash only, no I.D. required,” and thereby fueled an opioid epidemic all across the Southeastern states. At one point, 49 of the top 50 prescribers of opiates in the United States were located in Broward County, Florida. That small group of doctors who were intentionally criminal were part of the problem. The rest of it was the far larger number of doctors who were well intended but just didn’t know any better.”


And it gets worse.  Dr. Humpreys goes on to say:

I was on a public radio call-in program yesterday and heard multiple stories  of people with mild pain being written refillable prescriptions for large numbers of opioid painkillers. There’s a lot of that and it’s irresponsible and dangerous. What happens is either the person takes all the medicine, which they shouldn’t, and maybe they start then developing a problem.

As the women’s fashion magazine Marie Claire recently reported, present-day deaths from opiate abuse have more than quadrupled since 1999, accounting for 43% of all drug overdoses in the U.S.  In 2009, Erin Marie Daly, now 36, lost her brother to an overdose–one in nearly 20,000 lived ended by the epidemic.


author-photoIn her book, Rx: A Story of Dope, Death, and America’s Opiate Crisis, out this month, Daly comes to terms with his death while exploring the the roots of this epidemic: the legal prescription of highly addictive drugs from medical doctors.


On her website, Author Daly states that: “When my 20-year-old brother Pat died of a heroin overdose in 2009, I had heard about powerful painkillers like OxyContin and knew he was addicted to them, but I didn’t understand the connection to heroin. I started digging deeper, trying to learn more about both Pat’s personal downfall and the painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic. I have spent the past five years traveling the country and talking to people who have been affected by this issue.”


Her gripping memoir, enhanced by statistics and other stories of addiction, reveals the devastating human cost of failure to face the consequences of the epidemic spread of drug abuse.  Below is her interview with Marie Claire magazine:


How common is opiate abuse among women?

Women are more likely to be prescribed pain drugs, and though more men are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses, deaths among women have risen more sharply.


Is that because woman are more likely to use pain pills than street drugs like heroin?

All the women I interviewed for my book started with pills because they perceived them as cleaner or safer than drugs like heroin, because pills are prescribed by the doctors and manufactured by scientists.  Heroin was dirty–something they would never even consider doing.


But many women end up switching to heroin?

Yes. Thanks to recent pharmaceutical advancements and new drug regulations, young female addicts are now turning to heroin, with tragic results.


What can be done to stop this disturbing trend?

Women need to educate themselves about painkillers: interactions with other drugs, side effects, the potential for addiction.  None of the women I talked to started out thinking they’d do heroin, but once they became addicted to pills, it was the next logical step.  It seems crazy, but it all goes back to pills that are perfectly legal and prescribed by a doctor.


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Several years ago multiple news outlets broke the headlining news that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty to health fraud and paid a whopping $3 billion dollars to the United States government for it.  The payment is the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history, and the largest fine ever paid by a drug company.

If you would like to get a second opinion to find out if drug-free treatments with an experienced chiropractor in Augusta GA may be beneficial for you, you can schedule a complimentary consultation at Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic.  Many of our patients have said they wish they had considered drug-free alternatives sooner.  Our complimentary consultations are an integral part of our patient experience here, and our goal is to make sure that you, not the marketers of the pharmaceutical industry, remain in control of your health.


The Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic Blog is written by Dr. Mark Huntsman.

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