Speaking Out About the Painkiller Epidemic
The Post-Standard, the newspaper for Syracuse, New York, recently carried an article on the subject of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Specifically, the report focused on the experiences of multi-platinum record selling rapper Eminem, who had been featured in a documentary film titled “How to Make Money Selling Drugs.” Eminem has become a vocal critic of the widespread use and abuse of prescription drugs in the United States, following his own brush with death as a result of having been prescribed several different types of powerfully addictive medications. His addiction to the tranquilizers Valium and Xanax, as well as the opiate painkiller Vicodin, nearly claimed his life, leading to an emergency trip to the hospital. In fact, Eminem shares his conviction that he would have died if he had made it to the hospital only two hours later than he did. Following emergency treatment to save his life, Eminem then had to receive extensive rehabilitative therapy to recover the abilities to speak and move his body. After such a horrifying experience, the rapper has started doing everything he can to warn others and to hold accountable the doctors and psychiatrists who placed him in harm’s way by medicating rather than treating him, not only by appearing in documentaries but also describing his experiences through the lyrics in his music.
Major recording artists such as Eminem are not the only people who are being harmed by the broad use of prescription painkillers and other drugs. These drugs are being prescribed to people from all walks of life, and Americans in every state of the nation are suffering as a result. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 alone to keep everyone in the country medicated for an entire month. In light of statistics such as these, the CDC has described the current situation as being a “deadly epidemic” of prescription painkiller abuse. Painkiller overdose now kills around 15,000 Americans on a yearly basis, a figure that is greater than the number of people who die from overdosing on both heroin and cocaine combined. For every person who dies from using painkillers, many more abuse or addicted to these drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 5.1 million non-medical users of prescription painkillers in 2010. Beyond the vast numbers of people who abuse or are addicted to these drugs, there are countless more family and friends whose own lives are being ruined by the physical, emotional and financial toll claimed by opiate painkillers.
Taking Action to Stop the Painkiller Epidemic
The fact that Eminem has decided to use his prominent public platform to warn his fans about the dangers of prescription drugs speaks volumes about his character. With millions of people who buy his records and listen to his music, he has the power to inform and influence a large portion of the American public on this important issue. There are efforts being made by government and law enforcement agencies to curb the tide of prescription drug abuse, such as state laws being passed to create prescription drug databases to track which doctors are prescribing the drugs and detect those who are operating “pill mills” that dispense large volumes of prescriptions. Another example is the many local police departments that offer drop boxes where residents can securely deposit their unused pills for proper disposal. The most powerful weapon in the fight against prescription drug abuse, however, is for individuals to take the time to inform themselves and to warn those they care about.
For more information on prescription drugs and painkillers download our Prescription Drug Help Guide.