Prescription Painkillers: Far Riskier Than Gun Ownership

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Written for and originally posted at Single Dude Travel

If Americans are so happy, then why do we consume 80 percent of the entire global supply of prescription painkillers?  Less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in this country, and yet we buy four-fifths of these highly addictive drugs.  In the United States today, approximately 4.7 million Americans are addicted to prescription pain relievers, and that represents about a 300 percent increase since 1999. If you personally know someone that is suffering from this addiction, then you probably already know how immensely destructive these drugs can be. Someone that was formally living a very healthy and normal life can be reduced to a total basket case within a matter of weeks.

And of course many don’t make it back at all. According to the CDC, more than 28,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2014.  Incredibly, those deaths represented 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the United States for that year… [Read more]

One of the most beat to death gun control arguments is “Your odds of dying go WAY higher if you have a gun in the home! No one should own guns, guns are deadly!”

Now replace the word “gun” with “opioid-based painkillers” – yes, I mean the Percocets, Vicodins, Oxycontins, and all the others.  Now your argument is somewhere between 5 and 107 times as pertinent, depending on the classification of suicide, and addiction/accessibility.

Most people who use these arguments are simply regurgitating what they hear second-hand and/or are spoonfed by the mainstream media or whatever progressive outlet they choose to read. The truth is, they are largely ignoring or do not know about the danger of painkillers and other drugs in the home.

They are also ignoring obvious statistical trends, which show that while gun death rates are falling and have been for years…

Deaths from opioid-based prescription painkillers are climbing rapidly, and have been for years…

Arriving at any number on total opioid-based prescription drug usage is extremely difficult, as there is no conclusive data as to the number of people who use them annually. The black market resale value of prescriptions, size and duration of prescriptions, and the potential access of household members to the drugs, makes any measure difficult, and I haven’t found any outlet that’s even attempted to try to measure the percentage of households with prescribed opioid-based painkillers. Its also important to note that a household with a gun has the gun year round, at risk to anyone in the household, while the opioids have much more limited household accessibility, as the addiction numbers show.

There are about 4.7 million people “addicted” to opioid-based prescription pain relievers, as per the cited Zero Hedge article. If we calculate a death rate only for those addicted to opioid-based prescription painkillers, and use the figure in the above chart citing 18,893 deaths from prescription opioid-based pain relievers, we come up with 402 per 100,000. While this number is obviously extremely high, this example is pertinent solely because it is indicative of the types of calculations used by progressive media to inflate the danger of guns in the home, which usually use the assumption that you can only die via gunshot if your home has a gun.

The addiction statistics aren’t accurate, however, and there are no conclusive numbers on the number of people prescribed to opioid-based painkillers in the US, and not in treatment for abuse. A roughshod calculation, citing 7 out of 10 of the 320 million Americans taking prescription drugs (yes, you read that right), and 13% of those being opioid-based painkillers, puts you at slightly over 29 million Americans prescribed opioid-based pain medications annually. In addition, the majority of opioid-based prescriptions have very limited durations; my younger brother had one for a broken wrist, I had one for wisdom teeth removal, each prescription provided only about 10 low strength pills with no refill. Despite the true number of households per annum with access to painkillers in the medicine cabinet being much lower, we will go with 29 million as the number of people whose household has an opioid-based prescription painkiller, in lieu of more conclusive data.

Using that figure, you get a household opioid-based prescription death rate of 65 per 100,000. And that assumes the high numberof 29 million people with access. Also, suicides need to be broken out of both opioids and gun deaths – you can kill yourself any way you choose, and neither guns nor opioid-based painkillers are a prerequisite to do so. The CDC cites that 77% of poisoning deaths are unintentional accidents, 13% are suicide, and 9% are of “undetermined intent.” To give the benefit of the doubt, we’ll say just one third of the deaths of “undetermined intent” are indeed accidental, and go with an even 80% being accidental. That figure gives you 15,114 of last year’s opioid-based prescription deaths as accidental overdoses or homicide, or a rate of 52 per 100,000 within households with opioid-based painkillers in the medicine cabinet.

We’ll do the same exercise for guns, assuming that only people whose households own a gun can die as a result of one. To boot, we’ll use the low number of 34% of households with a gun (slightly under 109 million people), even though the NRA and other sources dispute this and put the estimate as high as 40-45% of households with a gun. Given that about 33,000 people die on average annually due to firearms related injuries, your death rate for households with one or more guns is 30 people per 100,000. If you break out the approximately 21,000 suicide gun deaths annually from these statistics, the household gun death rate is 11 people per 100,000. If you use a low estimate of 25% of gun victims not having a gun in the house, now you have a death rate of 7.5 per 100,000 for households with one or more guns. This is all using gun the highly questionable ownership and fatality rates from the progressive media, of course.

Editor’s note:

Live Science has a great article about your odds of dying from various causes and a lovely accompanying chart. You will notice that “suicide” is a tiny 2% of the pie. To put this all in perspective consider that in the US there were 41,149 suicides in 2013 of which 21,175 were committed using firearms. Compare this with “homicide by firearm” which is only 11,208 (see page 41).

This means the risk for death by homicide involving a firearm for general population at large was approximately 3.5 per 100,000 in 2013. You can imagine what happens to this number if you were to deduct all the homicides that occur in liberal gun control zones like Chicago (455 or more than 4% of the national total for 2013), Detroit, Baltimore, Washington DC, New York City, the entire state of California and so many others where it is nearly impossible to own and carry a handgun. The simple fact the liberal progressive parasites are always trying to obscure is that more [legal] gun ownership along with the right to carry results in less crime, not more.


However, as I pointed out above, those household gun death figures are completely bogus and are much higher than reality. For the obvious reason – you can’t die from prescription painkillers if you don’t take them, but anyone can kill you with a gun (including your local police, who kill 1,100 annually with guns Editor’s note:2015 saw more than 1,200 killed by police).  Including suicides, the gun death rate for all Americans is about 10 per 100,000 Americans annually. Breaking out suicides and including solely homicides, accidents, and “other” sources of gun deaths annually, you get a gun death rate of 3.75 per 100,000.

Even if you take the figures including suicide, and you assume that you can only die from a gun if your home has one, you’re still more than twice as likely to die from prescription opioids. Pull out suicides, and you are about 5 times as likely to die from opioid-based painkillers than a gunshot. Say 75% of gun victims had a household gun, and now you’re 7 times as likely to die from a gunshot as opioid-based painkillers.

And all this is not even factoring in that my calculation of 29 million people with access to prescription opioid-based painkillers annually is likely extremely high. Or the fact that I’ve taken all of the progressive media estimates on gun ownership and fatality rates. I challenge anyone to tell me that my number is low and that there are more people with access to painkillers in the home at any given time than the figure I’ve cited; the truth is, a more accurate measure would likely push the number of households with access to these painkillers even lower. Higher estimates on gun ownership, which has likely gone up in the past few years, using the increase to over 20 million background checks per year as a measure, would show that painkillers are far more deadly in the home than guns are. And remember, even if the gun saved your life from a violent attacker, the gun control outlets and their statistics I’ve used will include that in their gun death data. Good luck getting the painkillers to do that.

So before you give me the same recycled argument from the progressive websites about how unsafe it is to have a gun at home, check your own medicine cabinet for whatever Perocets, Vicodins and Oxycontins might be in your house first. Even if you need the medications to listen to your argument about guns in the home, statistically speaking, you’d be much safer if you flush the medications down the toilet than you ever would be by removing your gun, regardless of your opinion on the causes of gun deaths.

Note: The numbers in this article are solely focused on deaths caused by legal opioid-based painkillers (19,000 annually as of 2014). Total overdose deaths are about 47,000 annually – Illegal opioids (heroin) account for another 9,000 deaths annually, which opioid painkiller users will use as a substitute, and there are about another 19,000 whose overdose deaths are any other substance, whether its Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), cleaning solvent, or any number of prescription medications in your cabinet. Despite my focus on opioid-based painkillers, there are plenty of other substances you should toss out of the medicine cabinet and under the kitchen sink before you sell your gun, as the everyday household is filled with things besides painkillers that are far more likely to kill you than the gun is.