by Ella Jameson
The deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger may have grabbed headlines, but there is a far larger tragedy behind America’s recreational painkiller epidemic. Deaths from prescription painkillers have more than tripled in the last 20 years, while drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
These deaths are not the consequences of poverty cycles or criminal gangs; they are a consequence of our country’s dysfunctional health system. This particular disease is almost unique to the US, with causes that lie in the very institutions that should have our best interests at heart.
Almost all the opioids taken recreationally originate from a legitimate prescription from a legitimate doctor. They are not bought on the street. They are, by and large, not bought online, either. They are not sourced from pharmacy heists or other criminal activity. Painkillers come from friends and family, legally in possession of them thanks to a culture that has normalized the use of powerful painkillers to the extent that 10.43% of 18-25 year olds have used prescription pain relievers recreationally.
The question is not so much why do kids use prescription drugs – kids have always experimented with drugs – but why prescription drugs in particular? How come they are so easily accessible?
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