There’s a crisis in New York City. Scanning the media headlines, we read one of the larger titles of the week, in which The Independent states “Heroin is responsible for more deaths than homicide in New York City.”

It’s a true story. Heroin overdoses killed over 400 people in 2013 — 420 to be exact. Homicides were only responsible for (a still high) 335 deaths. But what about prescription medications? Where are those preventable deaths found within the report?

I’m talking about painkillers, which killed over 16,000 people in 2010 alone. And more than 12 million people are taking them without a real medical reason. The epidemic that no one is talking about when it comes to death statistics around the United States.

And let’s be clear, painkillers are much more serious of an issue than many illegal drugs – even heroin. In fact, before you scoff at this idea simply because painkillers are ‘pharmaceutical drugs,’ let’s look at the numbers. We can look at the studies, which I have been very passionate about, where we find that painkillers actually kill more than cocaine and heroin combined.

Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the latest study on the issue found that:

  • The United States and Canada are number one and two respectively per capita when it comes to opioid (painkiller) consumption.
  • In just 2010, there were over 16,000 deaths resulting from painkiller use within the United States.
  • Individuals addicted to and abusing painkillers often take large doses to feel a more ‘euphoric effect.’
  • Such large doses can stop breathing, resulting in death.

And statistically speaking, factoring in the population size of New York and other factors, we’re looking at a figure that’s even higher than heroin deaths within New York City. Perhaps even higher than heroin and homicide deaths combined if we’re going by the national average. Considering that painkillers already trump heroin and cocaine, it’s not too far fetched.

While some medications can help sustain life during emergencies and the medical industry has certainly made some amazing advancements, where is the critical eye on pharmaceutical drug abuse that’s making the corporations that manufacture them much more wealthy than any street drug dealer? As we read in The Independent, officials are treating the heroin deaths as a serious epidemic:

“Heroin is killing more people than people in New York City, highlighting a comeback for the opiate in recent years that has many in the US worried… In 2014 – for the second-straight year – heroin was responsible for more deaths in New York than homicide, according to the New York Daily News. Specific numbers for 2014 are not available, but in 2013 heroin overdoses killed 420 people, compared to 335 homicides.”

But maybe it’s about time we looked at prescription drug deaths in the same vein as we do illegal drugs. After all, more than 12 million are already on them.


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