“America uses 99% of the Vicodin in the world.” Yes, but the question is how.
From 2000 to 2010:
- number of prescriptions increased from 88M to 139M: 60% increase
- aggregate production by weight (kg) increased from 21k to 50k: 140% increase
- survey of lifetime use: 6M users to 24M
So what is happening is that number of prescriptions being handed out has increased, but the number of tablets on each script has gone up WAY more (e.g. #60 tabs to #100 tabs)– and those extra tablets are being shared among people.
A case study of NYC is illustrative:
825k prescriptions for hydrocodone and 900k prescriptions for oxycodone (Percocet) were written in NYC in 2009. But that’s not the full story, and anyone who has lived in NYC is going to look at this and say, “duh”:
Across the country a similar pattern:
Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, and West Virginia, with rates of 87-200 defined daily doses per 1,000 Medicaid beneficiaries.
California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont, with rates of 0 to 39 defined daily doses per 1,000 Medicaid beneficiaries.
What’s happening is what everyone already knows is happening: a small group of doctors, under the influence of the prevailing “market forces”/demand are giving out more prescriptions with MANY MANY more tablets on each prescription.
Those tablets are then shared with other people. There’s a reservoir of pills out there.
In the U.S., the prevalence of non-medical opioid use was 5.6%. 2M people are diagnosed with opioid abuse/dependence.
That may seem like a lot, but if you consider that 24M have used opioids at any time for any reason, then the point is that it is incorrect to make the generalization that Americans are weak, or overmedicated.
A tiny segment of the population is responsible for all of that use/abuse; and a tiny number of doctors are handing out all the pills.
FYI: many of the overdoses of Vicodin, etc, are due to the Tylenol toxicity, not the opioid.
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