After years of doctors over-prescribing highly addictive opioid medications like Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone), often times for pain caused by headaches and lower back issues, prescription drugs have become an American scourge – an epidemic unparalleled in our history. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has issued a new position paper stating that the risk of death, overdose and addiction from prescription opioids outweighs the benefits of treating non-cancer conditions, according to HealthDay.

AAN research indicates that half of patients who take opioids medications for at least three months are still taking opioid drugs five years later.

“Whereas there is evidence for significant short-term pain relief, there is no substantial evidence for maintenance of pain relief or improved function over long periods of time without incurring serious risk of overdose, dependence, or addiction,” according to the position paper.

Many patients who start taking prescription opioids are unaware of the dangers of addiction and/or overdose. A person starts taking such prescription drugs for a legitimate pain problem only to become ensnared by the drug, a drug that will trick some minds into thinking the body is still in pain, which ultimately can drag people into the cycle of addiction.

“More than 100,000 people have died from prescription opioid use since policies changed in the late 1990s to allow much more liberal long-term use,” Dr. Gary Franklin of the University of Washington in Seattle said in an academy news release. “There have been more deaths from prescription opioids in the most vulnerable young to middle-aged groups than from firearms and car accidents,” he added. “Doctors, states, institutions and patients need to work together to stop this epidemic.”

Unfortunately, getting people off of opioid medications is much more difficult than getting them on them. The same policy changes mentioned above, which made it easy for doctors to liberally prescribe opioids for years on end, do not allow doctors to deny patients medication if a patient claims to still have pain. Even if a doctor did decide to stop prescribing to certain patients, there is nothing stopping those patients from going to see other doctors.