2 Percent of Americans Addicted to Prescription Painkillers

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According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), up to 7% of patients who are prescribed narcotic or opioid analgesics to treat chronic pain will become addicted. Experts estimate that approximately 4.7 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers. This means that 2% of the American population is estimated to be addicted to prescription pain pills.

Sudden cessation of opiates is associated with intense withdrawal symptoms that may last between two and three weeks.  Those addicted to prescription painkillers may experience opiate withdrawal symptoms, which may involve diarrhea, abdominal cramping/pain, twitching, tremors, back/bone pain, tearing, yawning, sweating, agitation, restlessness, and intense craving for the prescription drug.  At PBI we monitor clients and help ease their withdrawal symptoms in a medically monitored detox environment.

A person that is addicted or physically dependent on prescription painkillers may wish to stop taking the medication, but find it extremely uncomfortable due to withdrawal symptoms. This physical dependence on prescription painkillers a disease that develops due to the following physical process:

In response to the presence of the pain medication, the brain increases the number of receptors for the drug, and the nerve cells in the brain no longer function normally.

The body stops producing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) and relies instead on opiates from the prescription painkillers.

The degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain causes a physical dependency on an external supply of opiates and reducing or stopping intake of the drug causes a painful series of physical changes called the withdrawal syndrome

To avoid withdrawal symptoms, the patient may continue taking prescription pain pills even after they are no longer needed to treat the original pain. At this point, the patient becomes dependent upon prescription pain medication and takes the pills to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

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  • Do you have any resources for statistics on how many Americans are taking pain medications? And of that percentage, what percent of that medication is over the counter? Also, how much are Americans spending on pain medication per month?

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