Dispatch: More Americans Addicted to Painkillers

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports a dramatic increase in prescription painkiller drug abuse between 1998 and 2008, with a 400 percent increase in the amount of Americans treated for the problem. Hospital admission for substance abuse cut across age groups, education, employment, race and geography and included painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine.

According to the figures, 56 percent of patients obtain the drugs for free from a friend or relative, while 9 percent purchase them from someone they know. “Addicts are very devoted to getting their drugs, and they’re clever about their methods,” notes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, who says that it’s not uncommon to see addicts tamper with prescription papers in order to increase the dosage amounts.

“The interactions and mechanisms of addiction, craving and relief are complex. The same can be said about cigarette smoking — just substitute oxycodone for nicotine, except it can be worse than that, because when you don’t have oxycodone, you experience severe withdrawal.”