Why the US is Leading the World in Prescription Painkiller Abuse?

More than any other country in the world, the United States is in the lead when it comes to prescription painkiller, or opioid, abuse: nearly 50,000 doses of opioids are taken daily for every one million Americans.

Prescription painkillers killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While heroin, which is illegal, adds to that figure, almost half of those deaths were caused by prescription painkillers available from a pharmacy with a note from a doctor.

“If we continue to work together with medical professionals to implement our innovative neurorehabilitation therapy program—and if doctors continue to take responsibility for their contribution to the national opioid epidemic—we are confident that we can make a significant reduction in the amount of opioid-related abuse and overdoses.”

So why is it that America has so much more of a problem with prescription painkillers than other countries? One possible factor is the lack of universal healthcare paid for by taxes.

“Most insurance, especially for poor people, won’t pay for anything but a pill,” says Professor Judith Feinberg from the West Virginia University School of Medicine. For example, the best option for someone with lower back pain would be physical therapy, but that’s more difficult to pay for than prescription painkillers. “[Physical therapy] authorization is a lot of time and paperwork… so doctors get very ready to pull out the prescription pad,” she said.

Another possible factor is the abundance of prescription painkiller TV advertisements, influencing patients to request specific opioids from their doctors. In 2015, the American Medical Association called for a ban on such ads, but it never happened.

Other possible factors contributing to US opioid abuse include gifts and sponsorship from prescription painkiller companies, poor training, and a lack of knowledge about the probabilities of addiction.

Another factor is the American culture of mediation—the belief that life is “fixable.”

“I’m 51,” said Professor Keith Humphreys from Stanford University. “If I go to an American doctor and say ‘I ran a marathon when I was 30 and now I’m sore,’ my doctor will probably try to fix me [with prescription painkillers]. If I do that in France the doctor would say ‘it’s life, have a glass of wine… what do you want from me?”

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Read the full story at www.BBC.com

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