Opiate use soars


The AP has a story on the explosion of prescription opiate sales:

Nationwide, pharmacies received and ultimately dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. That’s enough to give 40 5-mg Percocets and 24 5-mg Vicodins to every person in the United States.

The increases have coincided with a wave of overdose deaths, pharmacy robberies and other problems in New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Florida and other states. Opioid pain relievers, the category that includes oxycodone and hydrocodone, caused 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 alone, and the death toll is rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

It’s a good thing that pain patients have access to pain medication and I’m glad to hear that they appear to be focused on monitoring distribution and working on strategies to address diversion without restricting access to people without hurting pain patients.

The other noteworthy thing is that there are growing problems with prescription drug related crime. Ryan Leaf serves as a high profile example. Recently, there were 3 people shot in Ypsilanti (home of Dawn Farm) during a prescription drug sale. Detroit’s police chief cites prescription drug sales as a reason for increases in homicides.  There are also growing numbers of pharmacy robberies and the thieves are not interested in the cash register, they are going for the opiates.

As I’ve said before, there is no such thing as a problem-free drug policy. We’d all be better off, if this was more frequently acknowledged in policy debates.