If you live in the United States then chances are you know someone that has died of opioid abuse. The statistics of deaths related to opioid use are staggering and unfortunately they are also unique to the United States. For a cause of death that is preventable many would argue that doctors and nurses are not doing enough to combat the use and abuse of these drugs. Many are now saying that it is their responsibility to fight the rampant over-prescribing and abuse of drugs like OxyContin, hydrocodone, and Percocet.
Opium derivatives are legal but have many of the same risk factors of heroin, a well-known deadly drug. Heroin abuse comes with an estimated lifespan of a mere seven months from first-use to death. Those that make it longer play the odds and rarely make it more than a few years without either getting arrested and being forced to quit, or rehabilitating on their own…or dying. If you don’t think then prescription drugs and street drugs are comparable then the statistics may surprise you. According to CNN, of the deaths that are caused by legal opiate abuse, the deceased have an average lifespan of 33 months from first to last use. The worst part is that legal opiates don’t just affect the people whom they are prescribed to. Recipients of legal opiates frequently sell their prescriptions for their higher street value. The use of opiates in the United States is not confined to one age or demographic, though abuse is higher among middle to upper class whites. Many people start out “normal,” combatting pain either because of age or from an accident, and then end up addicts after several months of use. The dosage for opiates continues to grow the more they use, and death becomes a serious risk when the patient is doubling or tripling their prescription to get the same affect.
Doctors and nurses need to exhaust every option for pain management that they can before prescribing opiates. Even in the hands of responsible patients, it is difficult to control the outcome that the drug use will have on them or the people around them.