In the U.S., painkiller addiction is so rampant that 91 Americans die every day from an overdose of prescription opioids or heroin.1Prescription opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and methadone are widely prescribed for pain relief.
Initially, they were intended to treat severe pain following surgery or injury or pain due to illnesses such as cancer. However, they're now increasingly prescribed for many types of pain, including chronic back pain or pain from osteoarthritis. Opioid prescriptions nearly quadrupled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2013, despite reported pain levels remaining stagnant.
Meanwhile, the CDC reports, "Deaths from prescription opioids — drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone — have more than quadrupled since 1999," rising right along with the numbers of prescriptions.2
The problem with opioids is that many people start taking them for mild to moderate pain, only to develop a tolerance, which means you need to take more to get the same relief. Physical dependence can also develop, leading to symptoms of withdrawal if you try to cut back or quit the drugs cold turkey.
Ironically, opioids can even lead to an increased sensitivity to pain, causing patients to reach for more and more of the drugs. Addiction and overdose, which can be fatal, are all-too-common next steps. In fact, up to 1 out of 4 Americans receiving long-term opioid prescriptions struggle with addiction, according to the CDC.3