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Surprising Science

Painkiller Dependency is a National Problem

Approximately 70 percent of Americans use prescription drugs which raises serious concern for the potential levels of pill addiction in this country. Leading health organizations, including the Center for Disease Control, have documented the increase of painkiller purchases over the past decade. A recent study showed how prescription sales in Iowa alone have increased, and this increase has paralleled painkiller-related deaths from overdose.

The New York Timesrecently reported how many doctors are misprescribing opioids to expectant mothers. The report says that doctors are prescribing painkillers to pregnant women despite the lack of information regarding the drugs impact on the fetus.

As the controversial painkiller Zohydro enters the market there are growing concerns that the ease-of-access won’t be limited soon. As such, Holistic Light, a Panama-based addiction rehab program, says that it is paramount for the American population to become aware of what is a painkiller addiction as well as the risks associated with the drugs.

Vladimir Kogan, founder of Holistic Light rehab center, says that the challenge with painkillers is that many patients naively take them believing them to be safe because they were prescribed by a doctor. Many patients are unaware of how to use the drugs or even to recognize dependency in its early stages.

The inability to recognize dependency early isn’t just a problem that attacks soccer moms in Smalltown, USA. Hollywood stars, who usually guide trends for others to follow, present some high-profile cases of having abused prescription painkillers for years.

“Opioid abuse and addiction in America cuts through all cultural and financial lines,” said Kogan. “A person could be living in a coal town in West Virginia or a celebrity bringing down $30 million with each movie project.”

While anyone can develop a dependency on prescription painkillers, addiction often may begin with an emotional dependency. “People often start self-medicating their depression or loneliness,” Kogan said. “That is the reason you see a great deal of Hollywood stars fighting opioid addiction.”

Winona Ryder, for many years, was a respected actress with several Oscar nominations on her resume when she started to struggle with prescription painkiller addiction. In 2001, Ryder was busted at Saks Fifth Avenue for slipping $5,000 of clothing and accessories into her purse. While the shoplifting charges made the news, law enforcement officials also found eight different prescription painkillers in her purse.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, Ryder said that she had broken her arm two months before the shoplifting arrest. Her doctor prescribed oxycodone and she was taking it initially to manage the pain. Ryder admitted in the Vogue interview that she crossed a “weird point” where she wasn’t sure if she was still in pain, but was still taking the oxycodone. How many other Americans have crossed the same line?

Image credit: fotoknips/Shutterstock

The cannabis plant produces both THC – the psychoactive component in marijuana – and the compound commonly known as CBD, which does not lead to a “high.”

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