Overdoses Soared Even as Prescription Pain Pills Plunged
This occurred over a span of eight years throughout the U.S.
The number of prescription opioid pain pills shipped in the United States plummeted nearly 45 percent between 2011 and 2019, new federal data shows, even as fatal overdoses rose to record levels as users increasingly used heroin, and then illegal fentanyl.
The data confirms what has long been known about the arc of the nation's addiction crisis: Users first got hooked by pain pills saturating the nation, then turned to cheaper and more readily available street drugs after law-enforcement crackdowns, public outcry and changes in how the medical community views prescribing opioids to treat pain.
The drug industry transaction data, collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and released today by attorneys involved in the massive litigation against opioid-industry players, reveals that the number of prescription hydrocodone and oxycodone pills peaked in 2011 at 12.8 billion pills, and dropped to less than 7.1 billion by 2019. Shipments of potent 80-milligram oxycodone pills dropped 92 percent in 2019 from their peak a decade earlier.
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