MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) -- Americans are popping pain pills at a lightning pace, according to statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The amount of five major painkillers purchased at retail stores rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005. Oxycodone, the chemical used in OxyContin, is responsible for most of the increase. Its use jumped nearly six-fold.
More than 200,000 pounds of the painkillers were purchased in 2005. That's enough to give more than 300 milligrams to every person in the country.
There are several factors involved in the increase: an aging population, unprecedented marketing campaigns by drug makers and a major change in pain management philosophy. Doctors who once advised patients that pain is part of the healing process began reversing course more than 20 years ago.