Liz O. Baylen
Los Angeles Times
The use of painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, with doctors now writing about 300 million prescriptions a year. That’s enough for every adult American to be medicated around the clock for a month. Meanwhile prescription drug overdoses have skyrocketed, fueling a doubling of drug-related deaths in the United States over the last decade. This alarming fact has health and law enforcement officials scrambling to curb the epidemic. Much of their efforts have been focused on how potent painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin are obtained illegally, such as through pharmacy robberies. Authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed for them by their doctors. An investigation into the prescription drug epidemic in Southern California exposed a side of medicine less imagined – one of pain, loss, sorrow and desperation. Patients morph into addicts, and authorities raid fly-by-night doctors’ offices nestled in neighborhood strip malls. Meanwhile families lose their loved ones, once able-bodied citizens are debilitated by their dependency, and all the while the use of prescription painkillers continues to grow.
Aaron Rubin sits in his room while a caregiver prepares his bed for an afternoon rest before dinner. Rubin was debilitated from a prescription drug overdose, leaving him in the constant care of his parents. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with prescription painkiller overdoses reaching epidemic proportions.