In the age of quick fixes and fast results, prescription drugs have served as an immediate temporary relief. Since the emergence of opioids, also known as “wonder drugs,” in the 90s, the federal government, as well as drug users quickly learned the great level of dependence users experience on this drug upon consumption. Today, researchers are calling the widespread misuse of prescription drugs an epidemic.
And it has proven to be one of epic proportions. According to a study conducted by the Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, the United States consumes a whopping 80% of the opioid supply in the world. Translate this alarming statistic into real time, and it reflects the vast quantities of pharmaceuticals used on a yearly, monthly and daily basis. In fact, about 300 million pain prescriptions were written last year, totaling the market to $24 billion. And this doesn't even cover the prescriptions made out for central nervous system depressant (CNS) and stimulants.
Many credit the foundation of the trend of overprescribing drugs on the Joint Commission. The nonprofit organization operates as an accreditor that sets standards for hospitals and medical centers. It's vast effort in 2001 to prioritize pain treatment was successful, and is considered a defining moment in the progression of the opioid crisis.
The commission's book titled “pain is assessed in all patients,” made examinations for patients' pain levels obligatory. If hospitals failed to uphold this standard, they would receive a “requirements for improvement” rating from the accreditor. Although the book did not specifically mention prescribing drugs for pain, it cited this interesting claim: “there is no evidence that addiction is a significant issue when persons are given opioids for pain control.”
The book also referenced the many physicians who were reluctant to write prescriptions to patients based on the fear of them becoming dependent on the drugs. The book, sponsored by major pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, claimed that these concerns were “inaccurate and exaggerated.”
Some researchers think doctors are to blame, insisting that making out prescriptions has replaced the art of nursing patients back to health (much like therapeutic doctors used to do). Critics claim that drug-free treatments and changes to a patient's lifestyle are alternatives doctors no longer consider, they rely solely on writing prescriptions. They claim that the tendency for most physicians to prescribe has created the dangerous process of prescription cascading - when a patient is given a prescription drug to treat an adverse reaction to another drug.
And some blame the epidemic on American culture and it's insatiable desire for a quick fix. Conveniency is valued in our society, and it's evident through the creation of 24-hour drive-thru pharmacies and grab-and-go grocery stores. Prescription opioids are just a by-product of the convenience culture embedded in the U.S. Truthfully, all of these factors together play a role in why the prescription drug crisis is as detrimental as it is today, but the strides being made to curtail the epidemic are what matters most.
If you have been injured by a drug given to you by a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation. Attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian are dedicated to fighting for you. Call their office at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.