Editorial: Killing pain

Prescription drugs ease pain for millions of Americans, but also inflict the agony of addiction on millions more

October 31, 2013
Toledo Blade

Prescription drug abuse has become, over the past decade, an escalating epidemic across the country — and especially in Ohio. Our state has the nation’s 12th highest drug overdose mortality rate, with 16.1 people per 100,000 dying of overdoses, according to a new report by the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health.

Since 1999, U.S. sales of prescription painkillers have quadrupled. Prescription drug abuse now accounts for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. In 2011, 1,765 people in Ohio died from drug overdoses; opiates were responsible for most of them.

Prescription painkillers affect the same pain receptors in the brain as heroin does. In Ohio, as in other states, satisfying a serious opiate addiction with heroin has become cheaper than buying painkilling pills on the street.

Still, a new recommendation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that would tighten controls on how doctors prescribe commonly used narcotic painkillers may not be the right prescription. Such restrictions should not become law until the government knows more about how they would affect the tens of millions of people who receive Vicodin and similar prescriptions for legitimate reasons.


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