Americans consume 80 per cent of the world’s painkillers, which translates into more than 110 tons of addictive opiates every year, the BBC reports. The finding comes from congressional testimony by the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.
Opiates such as such as Oxycontin and codeine are legal with a prescription but are also addictive.
Pharmacist Howard Levine told the BBC that Americans are clearly “being over-prescribed, over-medicated.”
Over the last decade, the number of users of painkillers has increased 600 per cent and crimes by people addicted to oxycodone and hydrocodone (i.e. key ingredients in most prescription painkillers) have gone up.
Prescription drug abuse leads to 14,800 deaths a year, which is more than what heroin and cocaine total combined, according to the BBC.
A recent study found that a baby is born every hour in the U.S. with signs of opiate drug withdrawal.
The rate of American babies born with withdrawal symptoms has tripled from 2000 to 2009 and the number of new mothers who tested positive for opiates increased fivefold during that time, according to the Guardian.
The study noted that the average cost of a hospital stay for a newborn with opiate withdrawal is more than $50,000 (as opposed to under $10,000 for healthy babies) and about 80 per cent of that is paid for by Medicaid.
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