The lure of painkilling medication is simple. Take one or two pills, as prescribed, and your arthritic knee or bad back will stop hurting. And the relief feels oh so good.
The notion that another pill will erase the pain and damn the side-effects — at least for another 24 hours — is fast becoming an illusion, and a dangerous one at that.
We’ve seen some harrowing statistics that support this claim in a report published by The Washington Post this week.
Between 2006 and 2012, there were 380 million transactions involving highly addictive oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, accounting for three-quarters of the total opioid pills distributed to pharmacies.
During the time period analyzed by The Post, from 2006 to 2012, there were more than 76 billion individual oxycodone and hydrocodone pills distributed across the country.
“These records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the seven-year time frame ending in 2012,” according to the report.
The local figures are staggering to say the least.
In Columbia County, the data indicate that 13,933,020 prescription pain pills were sold during that time period, enough for 31 pills per person in the county per year.
The numbers were similar in Greene County, where 13,828,840 pills were distributed, enough for 40 pills for every person in the county each year in the study.
Think about that. Between 30 and 40 pills per year for every man, woman and child in Greene and Columbia counties.
The data also analyzes pharmacies where the pills were sold. In the Twin Counties, CVS stores received the highest number of pills in both counties from 2006 to 2012.
In Columbia County, CVS in Hudson received 4,006,130 opioid pills from 2006-2012, followed by Eckerd Corporation in Hudson, with 1,668,270, and The Golub Corporation, which owns Price Chopper, also in Hudson, with 1,435,760.
In Greene County, the CVS in Cairo received the highest number of pills for the same time period, at 3,229,600; Rite Aid in Greenville at 1,480,980; and The Golub Corporation, Price Chopper, in Catskill, with 1,367,460.
It must be noted that these pills were delivered to the specific pharmacies, but they were not necessarily sold to local residents; pills could have been sold to others from outside the county.
The question we might want to ask is how much these millions upon millions of painkilling pills contributed to the opioid crisis in the Twin Counties. Prescription drug dependency is a hard fact of life these days, here and in many other counties just like ours. Greene County and Columbia County must somehow pressure physicians and pharmacies to control the number of painkilling pills they distribute. That part is crucial. Teaching our citizens about the addicting power these medications possess is also crucial. The statistics in The Washington Post report should teach a sobering lesson: Just because these pills are legal doesn’t mean they can’t be lethal.