Why are so many Americans taking medication?
Painkiller Addiction in the USIf Pills your Life determine
Thousands of people die of pain medication overdoses every year in the United States. US President Trump therefore wants to declare a "national emergency" this week.
Addiction does not have to be limited to alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. There are also many people who are dependent on pain medication. Many patients slide into addiction from prescription drugs.
"It is estimated that 40 to 50 Americans die every day from taking too many prescription pain medications."
Millions of Americans are dependent, says our USA correspondent Marc Hoffmann. The problem is just not so noticeable because these cases are not about cliché junkies.
Why is the problem so big in the USA in particular?
Young and old people are affected, the poor as well as the well-off from the upper middle class.
"It's just because these pain relievers are pretty good to get around here."
There was a real opioid push in the US in the 1990s, says Hoffmann. At the time, the pharmaceutical companies were quite aggressive in bringing their latest products onto the market - and not harmless headache pills, but hard stuff, such as drugs that end-stage cancer patients get.
Pills in a big pack
At the same time, doctors have been prescribing these opioids more frequently and more generously. And there is something else:
"If you go to the pharmacy here, you will get such a large supply pack right away."
Patients often become addicted after an operation, reports Hoffmann - for example after a root treatment, after which doctors have prescribed hard tablets. And then the patients won't come down from them.
He also met many young men, says Hoffmann, who had said beforehand that something like this couldn't happen to them. Well-trained athletes who were in the middle of life: then the serious knee injury, the operation in the hospital - and everything looked different.
"The painkillers do the same thing in the brain as heroin."
The US authorities have a worrying number on this: of the addicted Americans who inject heroin today, the vast majority have started using pain medication.
Remove bureaucratic hurdles
If Trump now declares the pain medication emergency, he primarily wants to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, says Hoffmann. More money should flow faster to where it is needed - in rural regions, in medium-sized and smaller cities that have to finance offers of help and organize withdrawal programs.
"If Trump declares a state of emergency, addicts can be treated for free through the state health insurance 'Medicate'."
That could help many of those affected, says Hoffmann. Quite a few have financial problems because they have lost their jobs due to the addiction.
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