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Is America Addicted to Painkillers?

And now for some sad-making stats as we near the end of the week.

Recent Associated Press reports suggest that America is really drugged up on prescription opioids -- and New York is certainly no exception.

Receipts for two most popular painkiller scripts -- oxycodone and hydrocodone -- boomed from 2000 to 2010. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, sales of oxy products -- such as OxyContin, Percoset, and Percodan -- went up sixteenfold in some parts of the country. Hydrocodone -- which is in Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab -- has grown increasingly popular Appalachia and parts of the Midwest. In the Empire State, per capita sales went up 519 percent since 2000.

Of course, with increased abuse comes other increased negative impacts, such as overdose deaths and pharmacy robberies.

In 2008, for example, there were 14,800 such fatalities -- and the Centers for Disease Control predicts that this number will keep going up.

Part of the reason: America is getting older, and an aging population tends to have more pain problems. Also, more and more docs these days are OK with treating pain.

Yes, painkillers do have totally legitimate uses -- and should not be denied to people who need them. And yes, we have been known to take a hands off approach when it comes to some subtances.

But, that doesn't negate the very real concerns that must be addressed, such as the 150 percent increase in overdose deaths in Staten Island.

One way to do that? We can start by making sure that at risk areas have adequate treatment facilities. Right now, however, "experts worry painkiller sales are spreading quickly in areas where there are few clinics to treat people who get hooked."

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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