The findings come from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health
, which took place in 2015 (although the results have only now been published) the headline figure is that 37.8 percent of U.S. adults have used prescription-only pain medications. There are signs that some people are misusing the medication or are becoming addicted to the drugs.
The survey has been comprehensively analysed by the Novus Medical Detox Center
, which is based in Florida. The Center has issued a statement expressing concern with the extent of prescription drug use and is calling on health agencies to coordinate a campaign aimed at educating the public about the dangers of prescription-only painkillers. The Novus Center is also requesting for a renewed focus on treating addicts.
According to Novus, the number of users of prescription-only painkillers stands at just under 92 million adults in the U.S. This number now exceeds the users of tobacco products (at 75 million). The prescription painkiller market in the U.S. is worth $9.6 billion.
With these figures there is not only a difference in users there is a changing trajectory
: the use of tobacco products is falling while the use of prescription pain relieving medications is rising. Although data trends are not directly comparable (due to different sampling methodologies) the number of people who use prescription pain medications could have risen by as much as two million in a one year period (2014 data compared with 2015 figures).
There is also a rise in mortalities associated with opioid analgesic overdoses
. In 1999 there were 4,030 deaths attributable to prescription painkillers; by 2014 the figure rose to 18,893 fatalities.
Of the 92 million people aged 18 and older who use the medications, 12.5 percent have admitted to misusing them. Some of these people are seriously addicted, with around two million people having what is called “pain reliever use disorder.” This means not using the medication as intended, but instead due to an over-reliance upon the effects that the medication produces.
In communication with Digital Journal, Kent Runyon of the Novus Medical Detox Center said: “Though the vast majority of patients do not abuse their medications, the growing number of people who misuse them — combined with the steady rise in prescription opioid overdose deaths — underscore the urgent need for education and treatment.”
Prescription painkillers are necessary to help those with serious injuries or who are suffering with certain medical conditions. However, there are alternatives, especially for less serious illnesses.