Although the use of prescription pain medications can be very effective treatments for a variety of conditions – the use of these medication can also easily lead to abuse. There are many commonly abused pain relievers (painkillers) that share several similar features. The strongest painkillers are not only psychologically addictive; but physically addictive as well. These commonly abused pain relievers often cause a user to build up a tolerance, forcing them to take larger amounts of the painkillers over time to achieve the same result.
The widespread prescribing of potentially addictive painkillers increases the number of individuals exposed to these potentially addictive drugs. Most patients will be introduced to these pain relievers by their physician, who will medically prescribe and supervise their usage. In spite of this entirely legal process, many individuals will still become addicted to these drugs. Many times users don’t even realize they have become addicted or they don’t recognize the depth of their pain medication addiction.
Even after only a few weeks of use, some individuals find they are unable to stop using painkillers. Some users may even start looking to obtain these drugs through illegal means to satisfy their ever-growing need.
Popular painkillers are often stolen in small quantities from individuals or in large quantities from warehouses and transportation facilities. They are then sold illegally on the streets to satisfy the demand of an ever-increasing population of abusers.
Patients, drug companies, governments, healthcare providers, and pharmacists all have a role in helping to lessen the negative impact of these commonly abused pain relievers. Patients need to carefully follow the dosage and frequency guidelines set by their doctors. Drug companies need to place clear warnings and provide detailed physician instructions on prescribing these commonly abused pain relievers. Physicians need to carefully screen out those individuals with prior drug abuse histories or those exhibiting "drug-seeking" behaviors. Pharmacists need to pay attention to frequent requests for refills, the authenticity of prescription forms, and the security of their stock.
Prescription drug abuse is now the second most common type of illegal drug use behind marijuana usage, and painkillers are the most abused prescription drug. Among young people, 1 in 5 has abused prescription pain medication, and every year approximately 2.5 million people start abusing painkillers.
Cumulative Distribution of Opioid Pain Relievers per 100,000 Population 2003-2007