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The opioid epidemic and hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin) use has spread through the United States like wildfire. The United States makes up only 4.6% of the world’s population but consumes 80% of its opioids — and 99% of the world’s hydrocodone, the opiate that is in Vicodin. Most of those prescriptions are unnecessary. The use of hydrocodone/acetaminophen, the most popular pain relief drug in the country, has grown dramatically from 112 million doses prescribed in 2006, to 181 million in the U.S. today, according to a national survey done by the consulting firm Intercontinental Marketing Services (IMS) Health. Clearly there is an opioid epidemic and clearly a large part of the problem is Vicodin use.

Overdoses in the Opioid Epidemic

Overdoses from Vicodin and other narcotic pain relievers kill more people than car accidents in 17 states now, according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Public health and law enforcement officials in the Obama administration also said in a press conference that painkillers are now responsible for more deaths than crack in the 1980s and black tar heroin in the 1970s combined.

“Opioids are essentially legal heroine,” says Lewis Nelson, who served on an FDA panel to revise the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) associated with the prescription drugs.

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