painkillers

NPR's "Take A Number" series is exploring problems around the world — and solutions — through the lens of a single number.

One of the places many people are first prescribed opioids is a hospital emergency room. But in one of the busiest ERs in the U.S., doctors are relying less than they used to on oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin and other opioids to ease patients' pain.

Walmart is the latest national company joining in the fight to try to help curb America's harrowing opioid epidemic, which now kills more people than breast cancer.

Flushed: Painkillers And Antidepressants Contaminate Great Lakes

Dec 18, 2017
Emily Rowan / Fix For Addiction

As America confronts the opioid crisis, environmental scientists are warning about a related problem. Chemicals from pain-killers and other drugs often end up in lakes and rivers, creating what some scientists say could be a deadly cocktail for fish and other wildlife.

For years the Food and Drug Administration has been trying to get doctors to quit prescribing codeine, an opioid painkiller, to children after getting their tonsils or adenoids out.

But it can be hard to get clinicians to change their prescribing habits, even when children have died and other less risky medications are available.

Jon McHann, 56, got started on prescription opioids the way a lot of adults in the U.S. did: He was in pain following an accident. In his case, it was a fall.

"I hit my tailbone just right, and created a severe bulging disc" that required surgery, McHann says.

McHann, who lives in Smithville, Tenn., expected to make a full recovery and go back to work as a heavy haul truck driver. But 10 years after his accident, he's still at home.

This story was co-published with The New York Times.

At a time when the United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, many insurers are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications.

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The Franklin County Coroner’s office says overdose deaths blamed largely on opioids continue to spike compared to a year ago.

SPR Therapeutics

More than a year ago, 80-year old Helen Douglass described her shoulder and forearm pain following a stroke as 9 out of 10. Last summer, the Cleveland-area resident participated in a clinical trial for SPRINT, a small wearable stimulator patch. Now, she says she has no pain.

A major new study on the opioid epidemic that has swept through Ohio and much of the rest of the country says the painkillers that triggered the crisis likely never should have been prescribed for many chronic pains.

Prescribed narcotic painkillers continue to fuel a nationwide opioid epidemic—nearly half of fatal overdoses in the United States involve opioids prescribed by a doctor.

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