The latest data shows that drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in Americans under 50. Not only that, but the number of drug overdose deaths may have hit an all-time high in 2016, mostly from opioid drugs like heroin. Clearly, America is in the middle of a dangerous drug problem.
But before you think that as a healthy, active woman, that this issue doesn't really affect you, you should know that women are more likely to become addicted to painkillers, which can often lead to illicit opioid drugs such as heroin. Most people don't realize that taking prescription pain meds for a real medical issue could lead to a serious drug addiction, but unfortunately, that's often how it starts. (Just ask this woman who took painkillers for her basketball injury and spiraled into a heroin addiction.)
Like any other major national health issue, the solution to the opioid epidemic isn't exactly straightforward. But because addiction often starts with the lawful use of painkillers, it makes sense that drug regulators are taking a closer look at the prescriptions that are currently available to doctors and their patients. In a landmark move last week, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement asking for the recall of a painkiller called Opana ER. Essentially, FDA experts believe that the risks of this drug outweigh any therapeutic benefits.
That's likely because the drug was recently reformulated with a new coating to (ironically) prevent people with opioid addictions from snorting it. As a result, people began injecting it instead. This method of delivering the drug by injection was linked to HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks, among other serious and contagious health issues, according to the statement. Now, the FDA has decided to ask Endo, the drug's manufacturer, to take the drug off the market completely. If Endo doesn't comply, the FDA says it will take steps to remove the drug from the market themselves.
It's a bold move on the FDA's part, who, until now, hasn't formally stepped up to fight the war against opioid addiction by demanding a recall of a drug for its inappropriate use. Getting drug companies to stop making medicines that turn a major profit, despite a risk to public health, isn't always easy, though.
That's probably why a Senate committee is investigating drug companies to determine their role in the nationwide crisis. And while there are certainly therapeutic uses for these drugs, with the previously mentioned slippery slope that is addiction and dependency, it's crucial to stay informed about the potential risks of taking painkillers, as well as paying attention to drug abuse warning signs.