ILLINOIS - Dozens of people who abuse prescription painkillers die every day. It's a problem so out of control the federal government is taking action.
Part of the problem is there are so many painkillers being prescribed. In many states, more prescriptions are being prescribed than adults living there as seen in a report submitted in July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This crisis was part of Illinois' choice to legalize medical marijuana last year because some hope people can use marijuana and move away from more dangerous opioids. In the United States, the CDC reported there were enough painkillers prescribed last year for every American adult to pop their own bottle of pills.
St. John’s Hospital clinical pharmacist Brandi Strader said the increase in pain prescriptions has fueled an underground market, as well as addictions for thousands of Americans who never before had drug addiction problems.
"It's a problem everyone is trying to address, and probably, in the last year they've tried to address it more than they have in the last couple years,” Strader said.
For Dennis Garland, he's been looking for anything to get off his painkillers for neuropathy which began ten years ago. Garland said side effects from painkillers have decreased his concentration and cause him to sleep for most hours of the day.
"I hate morphine, oxycontin, all those things,” Garland said.
Garland says medical marijuana, which he's tried, does a better job treating his pain with fewer side effects.
"I don't know what these drugs are doing to me. I don't need all this,” he said. “Cannibis will solve my problems."
But medical experts, like Strader, say while marijuana could become a popular outpatient drug, whether or not it can compete with the high-powered narcotics will take time to realize.
"Ii think we're going to have to take this one step at a time,” Strader said. “And make sure we're not getting into another bad habit or another slope in another direction with an addiction as well."
Whether or not marijuana can keep people off potentially more addictive and dangerous narcotics, experts agree something needs to be done as 46 people die every day due to overdoses on prescription painkillers.