Efforts to curb the nonmedical use of prescription painkillers have focused for the most part on infrequent users, those who get the occasional pill for free from a family member or friend. These findings would seem to call that approach into question.
“Many users of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drug,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a written release. “Healthcare providers need to screen for abuse risk and prescribe judiciously by checking past records in state prescription-drug-monitoring programs. It's time we stop the source and treat the troubled.”
The findings come at a time when anti-substance abuse advocates and health professionals are lobbying federal regulators over the approval of Zohydro ER, which will be the first pure hydrocodone pain reliever sold with a strength experts say that is more than 10 times that of Vicodin.
According to the CDC, overdose deaths have been on the rise during the past decade, reaching more than 38,000 in 2010, more than double the number of drug overdose deaths recorded in 1999. Overdoses from opioid drugs during that time more than tripled, from 4,030 in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010. The steady increase in overdose deaths has been attributed to a large boom in opioid drug sales, which include oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone. In 2010, the amount of pain relievers sold in the U.S. could have medicated every adult with a 5 mg dose of hydrocodone every four hours for a month, according to the CDC.
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