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Prescription Opioid Abuse and Your Loved One

A male doctor writes a prescription.
Many think that the seeds of the painkiller epidemic were planted in 1980 by two well-meaning doctors who, it turns out, were very wrong about the addictive nature of drugs like Vicodin and Percocet.


Think back a couple of decades.

Probably, you’d never heard of Vicodin or Percocet. You likely didn’t know anyone who was addicted to painkillers. And you almost certainly didn’t know anyone who had lost his or her life to them.

Today, the government calls prescription drug abuse an epidemic. And you know firsthand how these drugs, which once seemed so harmless, can destroy lives and terrorize families.

The question is: How did it happen? And what can you do about it?

Prescription Drug Abuse Facts and Opioid Prescription Statistics

There is no shortage of statistics about how painkillers have changed the United States. Here are a few:

  • The number of prescriptions for opioids rose from 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • The number of women who lost their lives to opioid pain reliever overdoses rose 415 percent between 1999 and 2010, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • In 2013, prescription opioids cost our country $78.5 billion in costs related to crime, healthcare and lost work productivity, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Misuse of opioids kills nearly 20,000 Americans every year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

How could that have happened?

Percocet and Vicodin have been around since the seventies, but weren’t widely prescribed because doctors knew how addictive they were. Then, in 1980, two doctors published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine pushing back on that assumption. The doctors tracked nearly 12,000 patients whose pain was treated with narcotics. Their conclusion? For those with no history of addiction, the risk of getting addicted to painkillers was rare.

Then, OxyContin hit the market in 1996.

Pushed by pharmaceutical companies, the idea began to take root—and spread— that prescription opioids solved the problem of pain.

People just like your loved one listened to their doctors and sought relief. They weren’t trying to get high. They never dreamed they’d become addicted.

By 1999, an estimated 2 percent of the adult population was using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. Vicodin was not classified as a Schedule 2 drug until 2014. By then, it was too late for thousands of Americans.

More Content Just for You

With some drugs, addiction can be fairly easy to detect. But when it comes to painkillers, the line can be quite blurred.

We’ve seen it firsthand and, sadly, you have too.

The good news? There is a way out.

Expert Help—and Hope—at The Raleigh House

At The Raleigh House, we know how painkillers can consume lives. We also know how to lead your loved one out of the prison drugs have created. Our master’s level trained therapists have met—and helped—people just like your son, daughter, sibling or spouse. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the painkiller treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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