According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual rate of opioid painkiller deaths has more than tripled over the last 10 years. The CDC reports that roughly 40 people die every day as a result of an opioid overdose—a total of about 15,000 deaths each year.
Part of the problem stems from the indiscriminate rate at which painkillers are sometimes prescribed by doctors. According to the CDC report, enough painkillers are prescribed each year to provide every adult in the U.S. with a one-month supply of opioids.
Although the high number of painkiller overdoses and deaths is frequently blamed on illegal use of the drugs, the director of the CDC said that the real culprits are a few doctors who prescribe far too many of these dangerous medications. In addition to the risk of an overdose, giving patients more painkillers than they actually need can expose them to a risk of dependency or addiction.
According to experts, one of the problems that has contributed to the high rate of opioid use is doctors who have not been specially trained in pain management. Even when taken according to directions, opioid painkillers can still cause patients to suffer an overdose, which could cause respiratory depression or death.