76 billion. That’s how many prescription oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were distributed across the United States from 2006-2012.
The Washington Post reports they had to sue the DEA to get those numbers, and have just released them to the public.
Those numbers are nothing without the faces behind them - the survivors of the opioid epidemic.
“I started working for an oral surgeon. That’s how it got started. The girls and I that I was working with, we used every day. We would go and get pain pills on our lunch hour every day and just stay high at work.”
Shawna Cole’s story is shocking, but not unique. Hundreds of thousands of Americans likely share some version of the same story. Another victim of the opioid epidemic.
“I thought it was just for fun at first. We did it every day. It helped us get through the day when we were doing it. Before I knew it, I was waking up sick every morning, and I became dependent.”
2.5 billion of the 76 billion legally prescribed opioids were prescribed in Tennessee.
“It’s alarming. It’s scary,” said Brett Martin, Spokesperson for Turning Point, an addiction treatment center in Southaven, where Cole now works as a recovery coach.
“It doesn’t discriminate,” he added. “It’s no longer the person under the bridge anymore. It’s the person sitting in the church pew next to you.”
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In Desoto County, Mississippi, where Turning Point is located, more than 38 million prescription pain pills were prescribed between the years 2006 and 2012.
Nearly 12 million of those pills came from the Walgreen Company.
According to the data, in Shelby County that number more than quadrupled - 157.4 million prescription pills. And those numbers are nothing compared to those in East Tennessee.
Born by legal prescriptions, The opioid epidemic has grabbed the United States by the throat.
Killing nearly 100,000 Americans over a seven-year period.
“We hear it from our patients when they come through the doors. They start with prescription pain and it got so expensive, their addiction spiraled out of control, they were turning to heroin, things like that,” Martin told us.
Did you find the heroin market to be easily available in Memphis,” we asked Cole. “Every corner,” she answered.
Several solutions have been proposed, but Martin said there’s something we can do from home.
“Think of these pills as a loaded weapon. Lock them up. When you’re done with them, take them somewhere to be destroyed, the right way. Otherwise, they’re just as dangerous as a loaded .45.”
Several states have banded together to sue the makers of opioids for falsely claiming the drugs were a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain.
To track the map and see how your area has been impacted, click here.