How Easy Is It To Get Painkillers?

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One of the most commonly used prescription painkillers in America might be way too easy to obtain, according to a new recommendation made yesterday by the F.D.A. This represents a major policy shift and will hopefully help protect men and women from addiction.

The New York Times reports that 75% of all drug-overdose deaths in this country are caused by prescription drugs and that the rates of death from accidental narcotic ODs have quadrupled — yes, quadrupled — since 1999.

The painkillers at the core of the debate are those containing a combination of the narcotic hydrocodone and an OTC painkiller like acetaminophen or aspirin. Since these drugs are typically considered less dangerous than the heavy pain-hitters like OxyContin, they are less strictly regulated. For example, right now, you can refill your prescription five times over a six-month period without returning to see your doctor. The F.D.A. recommends halving that, and requiring a limit to new prescription for every 90 days.

More tightly controlled substances require a new prescription each time you get a refill. It's easy to see how have access to all those refills might tempt those who have addictive tendencies. Or, addicts can be drawn to these specific drugs because they know they're less strictly regulated.

Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: Painkiller addiction is a serious — and growing — problem in the U.S. And, whatever regulators can do to cut down on the cost of this disease is a step in the right direction. (The New York Times)