Painkillers Are Getting Worse
Need help? Call our 24/7 helpline. 855-933-3480

Painkillers Are Getting Worse


Land of the Pained

This week the FDA approved a drug called Hysingla, a long-acting painkiller that, like the recently approved (and controversial) opioid Zohydro, doesn’t contain acetaminophen like other opioids. This comes on the heels of a Washington Post article about America’s addiction to painkillers. I’d call it corporate America’s addiction to money but that’s beside the point and for another section of the newspaper. The Post is reporting that prescriptions for Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin have skyrocketed 300% in the last 10 years and that these opioids are the most commonly prescribed medications in America.

The drugs designed to rid Americans of pain are killing them. Forty-six people a day die from overdosing on them, which works out to 17,000 a year. These numbers are up 400% since 1999. And for every one death, 30 more go to the emergency room for an opioid complication. These aren’t strained athletes who need hydrocodone just to move their arms but everyday people we see in traffic and at the grocery store.

Land of the Free Market

As mentioned, last December, the FDA approved Zohydro for release into drug stores from sea to shining sea. It’s a long-acting version of hydrocodone—like a super Vicodin that lasts longer. If the statistics I wrote above on death tolls were for handguns, Zohydro is a rocket launcher. Its own panel of “expert advisers” advised against approving it because Douglas Throckmorton of the FDA thinks that the benefits of the drug “outweigh its risks.” Giving cops machine guns would probably be great for them too but we don’t allow that because of the issues that would come with it.

What’s the villainously named Throckmorton’s job over at the FDA? He’s the guy who says what goes back to the lab and isn’t ready for Americans yet. But he also claims he’ll put a more stern warning label on the bottle and that he’ll keep a close eye on how Zohydro does in the marketplace. I’ll bet he does. “Big Pharma” spent $2.7 billion dollars from 1998 to 2013 on lobbying because it made over $700 billion dollars during that time.

Deadly Misconceptions

One of the greatest misconceptions about prescription painkillers is that the people overdosing are those who “doctor shopped” or bought them illegally. Actually, 60% of the overdoses come from people who were prescribed by only one doctor and a third of them were on low doses. Ninety percent of people who are in chronic pain (which is defined as pain that lasts longer than three months and has nothing to do with a terminal illness) are prescribed opioids which ironically (and horribly) can actually make some people more sensitive to pain.

Another misconception is that these drugs aren’t addictive when used for the reason they’re made: to treat pain. Actually five to 25% of people who use them get addicted.

Finally, people believe that extended-release versions are safer. Zohydro is one of these and there’s certainly no evidence this is true. It’s just another version of the same thing to make more money, like 3D movies or brown rice at Chipotle. As far as I see it, the industry that claims to help people in pain is actually killing them—and their bottomless wallets.

Any Questions? Call Now To Speak to a Rehab Specialist
(855) 933-3480

About Author

Carlos Herrera is a comedian, photographer and writer whose work can also be found on The Fix . He has been featured in LA Weekly and has performed at The Hollywood Improv among other places.