Chronic pain affects millions of Americans. The standard treatment for persistent discomfort is prescription narcotics—opioids. When prescribed responsibly and taken as directed for short durations, they are a relatively safe method of mitigating pain. However, drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone are overprescribed, and they have a high propensity for abuse.
A significant number of chronic pain patients struggle with opioid use disorder. The need for adequate pain management can lead to dependence quickly. Once this occurs, it is incredibly challenging to stop taking painkillers without assistance.
Since accessing evidence-based addiction treatment is difficult in most parts of the country, many people see their issues with opioids worsen. Moreover, the risk of overdose increases with each day of continued use; prescription opioids are responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.
Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The surge in prescriptions for pain relievers over the last two decades has led to increases in both heroin and synthetic opioids use. A significant number of today’s heroin users (80 percent) started with prescription opioids.
The Scope and Scale of Opioid Distribution
Assurances were made in the late 1990s and early 2000s by pharmaceutical companies that the risk of opioid addiction was low. Physicians ran with inaccurate information and proceeded to prescribe narcotics for all things painful. MDs dealt with both acute and chronic pain in the same way, prescribing potent opioid analgesics.
Prescription drug companies benefited immensely from reckless prescribing. They continued to push a false narrative about the dangers of opioids despite an ever-rising number of patient overdose deaths. If you have been following the news lately, then you are aware that many states and victim families are demanding some accountability. More than a thousand lawsuits have been filed against the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Experts have a relatively clear picture of the number of people who are addicted to opioids (between three and six million) and the number of lives lost. However, the true scope and scale of opioid distribution were less clear, that is up until this week.
The Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System, known as ARCOS, is a database that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) maintains. It’s a system that keeps tabs on every single pain pill sold in the United States, The Washington Post (WAPO) reports. Gaining access to the data has proved to be an exceedingly difficult task.
Justice Department and DEA officials have fought tooth and nail to keep ARCOS data from the public eye, according to the article. This week, US District Judge Dan Polster removed the protective order for part of the database.
The exact scope and scale of the prescription opioids came into focus with the release of long-awaited data. ARCOS indicates that 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills hit the market between 2006 and 2012.
A WAPO analysis found that six companies – McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart – distributed 75 percent of the pills during this time frame. SpecGx, Actavis Pharma, and Par Pharmaceutical manufactured 88 percent of the opioids.
“The depth and penetration of the opioid epidemic becomes readily apparent from the data,” said Peter J. Mougey, an attorney for the plaintiffs from Pensacola, Fla. “This disclosure will serve as a wake up call to every community in the country. America should brace itself for the harsh reality of the scope of the opioid epidemic. Transparency will lead to accountability.”
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Chronic Pain Patients
NIDA reports that around 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed narcotics for chronic pain misuse them; between 8 and 12 percent develop opioid use disorders. Those who develop an opioid addiction can safely detox and recover.
Hemet Valley Recovery Center’s Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program was designed to assist people living with daily, physical discomfort who become dependent on opioids. Our team helps this demographic detox, discover alternative forms of pain management, and learn how to lead a healthy life in recovery.
Please contact us today to learn more about our program. 866·273·0868