Cocaine, heroin, and marijuana were Americans drugs of choice in the 80's and 90's. However, according to the The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the turn of the century brought on a new leader in the drug culture. More Americans are now addicted to painkillers than almost any other drug. In fact the NIDA list prescription drug abuse and marijuana use in a tie for third place on their list of most abused drugs.
The two drugs ahead of prescription pills on the list are tobacco and alcohol. This should give you a clear picture of how addicted to painkillers we've become.
As with all addiction issues the answer to why so many people have become addicted to painkillers is a complex one. However, we can make some general assumption as to why the prescription drug epidemic has hit our country so hard.
Doctors Prescribe Painkillers
Many first time drug users are drawn to painkillers because they are prescribed by doctors. This fact leads many to believe the drugs are safe to be used recreationally and have less long term side effects than other illegal drugs. As a society we are quickly learning the side effects of painkillers are just as sever if not worse than many other illegal drugs.
Painkillers Are Easy To Get
As mentioned above since doctors prescribe the drugs there seems to be more painkillers available on the streets than any of the other popular drugs. Many people visit doctors with the intention of obtaining painkillers to either abuse or sell for profit. These people are usually not your typical drug dealers. Drug dealers in the past had to meet in some secret place to obtain illegal drugs out of the watchful eye of the law. The prescription drug dealers simply have to visit their local doctors office to obtain their drugs legally.
Painkillers Have Less Social Stigma
Although this is becoming less true there are still many people who view prescription drug abuse as somewhat socially acceptable. For the reasons already mentioned those addicted to painkillers often times don't try to hide their use of drugs. This is especially true if the addict has a legal prescription for painkillers. After all, who are we to judge someone who is taking their legally prescribed pills?
Wealthy lawyers, doctors or other professionals are just as likely to become addicted to painkillers as those in the lower classes of society.
Those are just a few of the reasons more and more Americans are becoming addicted to painkillers. The DEA and even the president has called our countries addiction to painkillers an epidemic. Recently the government passed federal laws to monitor the flow of prescription drugs. This is an attempt to weed out doctors who over prescribe pain medication and also catch people who "doctor shop". A practice of visiting many doctors trying to get narcotic painkillers to either abuse or sell.
Some of the powerful painkillers on the market such as Oxycodone have a history of producing high rates of overdose deaths. The maker of Oxycontin has been successfully sued many times because of the deceptive marketing practices they once used.
The high overdose and addiction rate of painkillers has gained national attention over the last few years but there is still no end in sight for America's addiction to painkillers.