These numbers come from the 2015 survey on drug use and health in the USA.
Many of these are for genuine chronic pain conditions that can help people manage their pain, but they often come with other unwanted side-effects and can be addictive.
Oxycodone is one such medication widely prescribed in America. It is a an opioid analgesic (a painkiller), that is generally prescribed to control moderate to severe pain that cannot effectively be treated with other medications. It is a semi-synthetic opiate originally created back in 1916 from thebaine, a chemical found in poppy plants and related to other narcotic drugs, such as morphine and heroin.
According to drugs.com Oxycodone can slow or stop your breathing. It should not be used if you have severe asthma or breathing problems, or a blockage in your stomach or intestines. Oxycodone may be habit-forming, even at regular doses.
Users report building a tolerance and having to increase the dosage over time to achieve the same results
Understandably, people with severe pain conditions may not want to take such powerful opiate based medicines for life, but are there herbal alternatives that are not so addictive?
In recent years it has become increasingly popular to purchase kratom, a little known therapeutic herb normally drank in a tea infusion from South East Asia that is known to relieve conditions ranging from pain to anxiety and depression or as a mild stimulant in lower doses that is similar to coffee.
There are a few strains of kratom sourced mainly from Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, mainly white, green and red. The red strains are known more for their painkilling properties, being less energizing and more sedating, whereas the white strains are known more for their energetic properties and the green strains somewhere in-between.
Last year the DEA almost banned it, but withdrew after a huge public outcry from millions of Americans who use kratom as a herbal medicine, even though it is not yet FDA approved.
Another powerful use of kratom is to provide relief from opiate withdrawal, but is it safe?
Yes, according to experts such as Dr Anace Said, MD.
Dr Said told Clinical Advisor “I think that kratom is much safer than some of the FDA- and US Drug Enforcement Administration–approved medications, such as oxycodone. I treat patients for opioid addiction, and I have a few who have stopped using opioids and are now on a stable, individualized dose that the patient decides. I know that this takes the control away from physicians and other governmental agencies, and there is also the loss of money for some drug companies. But so far, there have been no deaths or patients who needed to go to rehabilitation from using kratom. In my opinion, kratom is safer than oxycodone and other narcotics”
Kratom was almost unheard of in the western world a couple decades ago, yet now it is becoming an increasingly popular herbal medicine for people with pain conditions, anxiety, depression and even to wean them off prescription opiates or heroin. Has nature found a real alternative to prescribed opiates? One thing for sure is kratom is here to stay and certainly not going to go away.