The “face” of today’s addict is very different than it was a few decades ago. Addiction used to conjure up images of the homeless, down on their luck and staggering under city bridges. Fast-forward to 2014 and the modern face of addiction has completely changed, mostly due to an opiate addiction of epidemic proportions.
The country’s addiction to prescription painkillers reaches into homes, schools, businesses, and hospitals. A report issued by the National Institute on Drug Abuse was able to pinpoint the five groups most affected by this epidemic. Here’s a look at those who are being hurt:
Surprisingly, women are most affected by opiate addiction. An astounding 48,000 women died of overdoses between 1999 and 2010. That’s an average of approximately 18 female deaths a day, an increase of more than 400 percent. More frightening, for every woman killed by a painkiller overdose, another 30 end up in the emergency room for abuse of opiates. Data indicates opiate abuse is so high among women because they seek to "dull painful memories or circumstances."
Towards the end of 2000, prescription painkiller addiction became a serious problem among teenagers. A few years later, the painkiller addiction morphed into a heroin addiction. Heroin’s cheaper high lures in high school football players, cheerleaders, and honor students. With a much stronger potency, fatal overdoses are now a common and unintentional consequence among teens.
Doctors and nurses run a high risk for opiate addiction. Long work hours, coupled with the inevitable sickness and death of the job, can drive many healthcare providers to abuse prescription pain medications. In fact, USA Today recently reported “more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides are abusing or dependent on prescription drugs in a given year, putting patients at risk.”
After fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of military vets now receive medical care at VA hospitals around the nation. Between 2001 and 2012, vets were written record numbers of opiate prescriptions. Use of the four most potent opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – surged by 270 percent.
The Middle and Upper-Middle Class
Addiction to opiate pain medications affects a large portion of middle- and upper-middle class society. In fact, this area has been called “ground zero,” with a high percentage of people dying from “preventable” prescription drug overdoses.