There’s a major drug problem facing the world… and it’s got nothing to do with Colombian cartels or inner-city gangs.
No, the real drug problem comes courtesy of Big Pharma, because a new report finds that more people abuse prescription drugs than heroin, ecstasy and cocaine combined.
The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board says that 6.2 million Americans were addicted to legal drugs in 2008. That means Americans abuse prescription meds more than any illegal drug except for marijuana.
That’s a lot of legal junkies.
In fact, an entire industry has sprung up to service people who want prescription drugs… but can’t get them from their own doctors. Many of these places advertise themselves as pain clinics, but cops call them "pill mills."
Inside, unscrupulous docs do nothing for pain–they just sell pills. And when the doctors in these places are busted, the owners feign outrage and hire new pill-pushing doctors.
It’s not limited to pill mills… legal drugs are also being exchanged everyday on playgrounds.
A study last year found that 20 percent of American kids shared their own prescription meds… and 20 percent of children have taken drugs given to them by a friend instead of a doctor. That study found that kids share everything from allergy meds to painkillers to drugs like Ritalin.
And it goes far beyond our borders. Legal drug addiction has become a global nightmare.
Right next door in Canada, up to 3 percent of the population is believed to abuse prescription drugs, according to the new report. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to around 1 million Canadians with a drug problem that has nothing to do with the kind you buy on the street.
In Germany, between 1.4 million and 1.9 million people are addicted to prescription drugs. And in some other European countries, including France and Italy, millions of students –-between 10 percent and 18 percent of them–use sedatives or tranquilizers without a prescription.
The U.N. report also warns of easy access to drugs over the Internet… and how simple it is to buy drugs across borders now–not only making the problem worse, but harder to track and control.
There are so many reasons to avoid these meds–and the risk of addiction is just one of them. The side effects can be worse than the addiction itself… and even deadly. Opioid painkillers alone caused 13,800 deaths in the United States in 2006.
What’s remarkable is that these powerful and addictive meds are often completely unnecessary. Most painkillers are–in large part because none of them actually treat or cure the condition causing the pain, but merely mask the symptoms as the patient gets hooked.
Even as the pain fades, the quest for the next high is just beginning.
I know drugs seem like a quick fix, especially for people facing chronic pain–but as the U.N. report shows, they’re really just a prescription for addiction and even more pain for millions of people.
If your doc is more interested in feeding you drugs than finding a solution, there’s only one thing to do: Find a new doctor.
Edward Martin is a health journalist who writes about today's most pressing health issues. He chronicles the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating everything from diabetes to cancer and reports on the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.