Prescription pain relievers are drugs prescribed by a medical professional to reduce pain. They are also known as opioid analgesics, opioid pain relievers, or prescription painkillers. Common examples include OxyContin®, Vicodin®, codeine and fentanyl. Although there is a role for these drugs in medicine, they can also cause substantial harm, particularly if misused (taking your prescription in ways other than prescribed or taking someone else’s prescription). Misuse and overdose from prescription pain relievers is considered a national epidemic.
In 2011, there were almost 17,000 deaths related to prescription pain relievers. New York City has also experienced the impact of this public health crisis. From 2000 to 2013, rates of overdose death from prescription pain relievers increased 256% in New York City. In 2013, about 1 New Yorker died every other day from an opioid analgesic overdose. The majority of these deaths are entirely preventable.
People often think that prescription pain relievers are safer than illicit drugs, but they can be just as dangerous.
If you or someone you know has a problem with prescription pain relievers, help is available. Speak with a health care professional or call 988.