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Prescription Pain Killer Abuse May 2012
Posted By Admin on May 02, 2012
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The following article was printed in the May/June 2012 edition of the Positive Community. Horizon NJ Health is proud to support New Jersey publications and community partners.


Dear Dr. Bonaparte:

After pain from my knee surgery and discomfort from arthritis, I take prescription pain killers. At times, I have taken some of my husband’s prescription pain killers. My husband is upset and he wants me to see my doctor.  Since these drugs were all prescribed and are in our medicine cabinet, there should be no problem. Is there?

Signed,  Mary


Dear Mary:

Yes. There is a problem and your husband has given you great advice. You do need to see your doctor for pain management. Your doctor will also emphasize how important it is to take prescription painkillers only as directed by the doctor – not by you. People react differently to drugs. When you take your prescription pain killers and combine them with other drugs, you could be setting yourself up for harmful and sometimes dangerous side effects. Many medications can interact with each other and create problems. Any drug can cause problems.

Make sure you always read the label and follow the directions. The dosage prescribed by your doctor is the appropriate amount that will benefit you the most. Talk with your doctor if you continue to experience pain. Your doctor can assess the pain and work with you to manage your pain and health issues.


Pain in the knee is a common complaint and arthritis can be one of the most common causes of knee pain. Your doctor or surgeon may have recommended ice or heat applications, stretching exercises and, depending on your surgery, a planned program of movement and/or physical therapy.  Treatments vary and, in addition to prescription pain killers that are not meant to serve as a lifelong option, your doctor may prescribe other medication for short term relief from your symptoms. 


Unfortunately, abuse of prescription pain killers has become a problem shared by far too many Americans. The problem is difficult to ignore. All we have to do is look at the news which is filled with stories of high profile celebrities who have died as a result of an overdose or abuse of prescription pain killers. Nationally, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overdose death rate from the abuse of prescription pain killers, such as oxycodone, oxymorphone and hydrocodone, has “skyrocketed” so much so that this abuse is quickly becoming a national health epidemic - a deadly one.  In 2008, abuse of prescription pain killers caused more deaths in the United States than the street drugs of heroin and cocaine combined.


In 2010, the CDC found so many prescription pain killers were prescribed that the amount was enough to “medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.” Although most of these drugs were prescribed for a medical purpose, many ended up in the hands of people who misused or abused them.


Prescription pain killer drugs are not street drugs. These drugs are inside our homes - accessible to adults and children. The drugs are in our medicine cabinets, next to the bed, inside dresser drawers and in the homes of friends who are willing to share their prescription pain killers.


Look through your home; check medicine cabinets and throw out all old, expired prescriptions. Drugs have expiration dates, because they lose their effectiveness, particularly when stored in a moist, warm bathroom medicine cabinet.    


Before any problems occur, speak with your doctor and stay healthy.



There has been a steep increase in the sales of pain killers, but people who abuse prescription pain killers can and do find many sources for obtaining drugs. According to the CDC:

  • 55% obtained free from a friend
  • 17.3% prescribed by a doctor
  • 11.4%  bought from  a relative or a friend
  • 7.1%  from other sources
  • 4.8 % taken from a relative or friend without asking
  • 4.4% were from a stranger or drug dealer



In the United States:

  • Every day, 40 Americans die from abusing narcotic prescription pain killers or a few thousand less than the total number of people killed in car crashes.
  • Death from prescription drug abuse more than tripled in the past decade.
  • Opioid pain medication abuse accounts for the most common poisonings treated in emergency departments and nearly one million Americans are currently addicted to some type of opiate. 
  • Nonmedical use of prescription pain killers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs. (Source: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


In New Jersey, as a result of prescription pain killer abuse:

  • There were 7,238 admissions to state-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs.
  • A 230% increase from 2005, according to statewide statistics collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA for 2010.
  • In June 2011, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation reported:
    • A significant trend indicates that young people addicted to painkillers eventually turned to heroin as a cheaper substitute.