The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta just issued a report on what it calls an "epidemic", the abuse of opiate narcotic pain medications and the overdoses that contributed to 15,000 deaths in 2008.
Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone led to the deaths of almost 15,000 people in 2008, including actor Heath Ledger. That's more than three times the 4,000 deaths from narcotics in 1999.
Such painkillers "are meant to help people who have severe pain," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which issued the report. "They are, however, highly addictive."
Wow, including Heath Ledger? I mean 15,000 deaths that's terrible but when they mention Heath Ledger that really lets you know the gravity of the situation here. But seriously, it seems every couple months or so we're hearing about how terrible these pain meds are and how they need to be more tightly controlled. New reports are coming out all the time about the abuse potential and how terrible they are.
I propose that nothing be done about it at all. There's millions of people who genuinely do need these pain medications to cope with their severe pain. Any further tightening of access to these medications only harm those who need them the most. About those overdoses? Each and every one of those people knew the addictive nature of the drugs and made a decision to take a lot more than necessary. Nobody abuses drugs on accident. How many people do you think overdosed on these meds who were taking it the way it was prescribed? None of them. I don't mean to be harsh but once someone decides to take something in excess to get high to the point where it's a lethal dose, the consequences fall on them, not society. And why treat legitimately suffering patients like criminals? Because that's really what more regulation and tightening will do.
We've always had drug abuse and we've always had drug overdoses. And for comparison sake, the CDC reports that from 2001-2005 there were 79,000 deaths a year due to alcohol abuse. Where's all the talk about the alcohol abuse epidemic like we hear with pain medications? After all, the death toll is over 5 times that of pain meds.
People are going to choose the types of lives they want to live. Some people have a strong desire to succeed, others have given up and want to get high. It's not our role to tell people how to live their lives. At the end of the day we're all going to the same place anyway. I argue that anyone who overdoses and dies from taking too many pain pills was likely bound to kill themselves in one way or another. If it wasn't oxycodone it would have been heroin or alcohol. You're never going to stop drug abuse; any efforts to do so only wastes taxpayer money and inconveniences those who really do need the medication for health reasons.