In 2019, it’s hard to peruse through a news site without encountering at least one story about America’s opioid crisis. And, as a recent Yahoo News article explained, it truly is an “American” problem. Nowhere else in the world have painkillers such as these wreaked so much havoc.
To put things in perspective, America accounts for roughly five percent of the global population. Yet residents of this country consume about 80 percent of the global supply of prescription opioids. A map displayed in the Yahoo article offered some key insights into the nationwide trend. Outside of our own state of California and nearby Arizona, nearly the entire epidemic can be traced to the eastern portion of the United States (at least when it comes to overdoses).
So does this mean that more people are getting injured in these states and thus need more prescription painkillers? Not at all. In fact, in countries like France, Italy and the Ukraine, individuals report much higher rates of chronic pain (roughly 40 percent) when compared to the United States.
Yahoo’s researchers believe that there are several factors as to why we have less pain, but more addictions. One prominent culprit could the practices of the companies that produce these drugs. “Big Pharma,” as they’re called in the piece, pour billions of dollars into marketing campaigns for physicians. When looking at that sort of data, it’s not hard to understand why over-prescriptions were occurring earlier in the decade.
The writers also believe that residents of other countries are open to alternative and natural therapies when it comes to soothing pain. The fast-paced American lifestyle, however, adheres more to a “get-it-fixed quick” culture, where pills become an in-demand resource.
Socioeconomic factors were discussed too and the fact that adults living in rural poverty are more likely to experience chronic pain (possibly because their trades often involve manual labor). Bad diets and obesity can also contribute to this, leading people to look for “magic solutions” to relieve their emotional and physical stress.
The Yahoo piece ends with some words from noted physician Dr. Sarah Johnson. In her opinion, people should not look to pill bottles as the only solution to their pain. Healthier living and alternate therapies should be considered and have shown success.
“As a culture, we could better work through pain by being more open minded to nonmedication therapies for pain,” she concluded. “This includes things such as physical therapy and relaxation, as well as sometimes learning to live with some degree of pain and enjoy life if it cannot be completely cured.”