Did you know that every day 44 Americans die from a prescription painkiller overdose? To raise awareness about and lower the tragic number of opioid overdoses in the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has launched a social media campaign, “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem.”‘
Best of all, you can participate in just a few minutes. Between now and May 15, simply write six words that tell a quick story about your experience with or concern about prescription painkillers, then tag it #RxProblem and post what you’ve written on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also create a picture, photo or video and post it. Finally, ask your friends, family and those who follow you on your social platforms to share their support, too.
“Prescription drug overdose devastates individuals, families and communities,” says Erin Connelly, associate director for communication at the CDC’s Injury Center. “We hear these stories and we are moved to learn more and do more. We’d like to get everyone talking and thinking about the risks involved with opioid painkillers.”
Connelly adds that the CDC is “excited about our current work and future plans to address the prescription drug overdose, and we will continue to build on our work with states to help reverse this epidemic — our ultimate goal.”
Addiction.com wants to do its part to support the CDC’s #RxProblem initiative. “In reporting on opioid abuse and addiction regularly, we often hear the stories of people who’ve lost their lives and health to inappropriate use of painkillers, as well as the emotional devastation to people who love someone struggling with addiction,” says Lorie Parch, Addiction.com’s editor-in-chief. “This is a simple way we hope to help raise awareness.” At right, staff writer Colleen Moriarty shares her own six-word message: “Writing about Rx addiction creates awareness.”
When Prescriptions Become a Problem
Statistics show that approximately two million Americans abused prescription painkillers in 2013. And every day, almost 7,000 people are treated in U.S. emergency departments when painkillers aren’t taken appropriately. When misused or abused, prescription painkillers can cause a variety of health problems, including life-threatening breathing complications.
Painkillers are widely prescribed for moderate to severe pain after an injury or surgery, but also for chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
Opioids: These drugs are derived from the poppy or synthetic versions of the plant and are prescribed to relieve pain. Opioids are most commonly involved in overdose deaths. Examples of opioids include:
• Hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin)
• Oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin)
• Oxymorphone (e.g., Opana)
• Methadone (especially when prescribed for pain)
Benzodiazepines: In addition to painkillers, benzodiazepines are also addictive prescription medications. These central nervous system depressants are used as sedatives, sleep aids, seizure-preventatives and anxiety medications. They include:
• Alprazolam (Xanax)
• Diazepam (Valium)
• Lorazepam (Ativan)
How You Can Help End Prescription Painkiller Abuse
The number of prescriptions for painkillers quadrupled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2013, according to the CDC. This is in spite of the fact that Americans are not reporting experiencing more pain. Better prescribing practices and state regulations are being put in place to help reduce prescription drug abuse, leading doctors to follow stricter prescribing guidelines. And most states operate a prescription drug monitoring program in an effort to prevent fraudulent prescriptions as well as abuse and overdose.
To help prevent painkiller addiction, you can:
1. Show your support and raise awareness of opioid abuse and overdose between now and May 15, 2015 by tagging and sharing your message, photo or video #RxProblem and sharing it via social media.
2. Only take prescription painkillers when you need them and according to your doctor’s directions.
3. Never share prescription drugs with a family member or friend; they should only be taken when and as prescribed by a doctor.
4. Lock up addictive prescription medications to prevent misuse or abuse by a family member, friend or visitor who could access your pill bottles or medicine cabinet.
5. Get rid of unused prescription drugs when you no longer need them. Look for a drug take-back location near you to prevent prescription painkillers from falling into the wrong hands.
Main image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control