Curbing Prescription Opioid Dependency. An Epidemic of Overdoses and Deaths from Opioids Is Fuelled by Increased Prescribing and Sales in North America. Tatum Anderson Reports. (Bull World Health Organ 2017;95:318–319)
(2017; 2 pages)


Before 1995, the prescription of opioid painkillers in the USA was limited to people with pain from advanced cancer, severe injuries or after major surgery.

That restraint was founded on the fear that patients might become addicted and the bitter experience of two opioid epidemics: in the early 1900s when heroin was sold legally for various ailments and an epidemic of illegal heroin dependency in the 1960s during the Vietnam War.

Opioids are a class of drug used to reduce pain. They include heroin, as well as prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, methadone and morphine.

In 1986, a study based on 38 patients suggested that these powerful prescription drugs could be used safely with minimal rates of addiction for chronic pain, and a few pain specialists began advocating for broader use of them in this way...

Since then, the USA has been facing a growing epidemic of opioid dependency, including a rise in heroin use and record high levels of opioid overdose deaths.

The over-prescription of opioids for chronic, non-cancer pain outside palliative care is driving the epidemic of opioid dependency in the USA...

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