PHOENIX -- Prescription painkiller overdoses are on the rise in the United States. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die. But with new prescriptions in development, some wonder if this could add to the growing problem.
"I played a lot of sports growing up," Nate Defreitas said. "Everything was just like a normal childhood."
Defreitas was your typical Valley teenager. He was going to school and playing football. Little did he know that his life would soon spiral out of control.
"I never thought I would be that person depending on a pill," Defreitas said.
The pill was Oxycontin. Defreitas, who is now 20 years old, started taking the painkiller without a prescription after high school football games.
"I thought; I had to have them every day to get better," Defreitas said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12 million Americans ages 12 and older reported that they took prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons. In 2009, nearly half a million emergency room visits were due to the misuse or abuse of the painkillers.
"In light of what's going on in the hospital rooms and emergency rooms, why would we need another drug to add to our current problems," said Dr. Ravi Chandiramani with Journey Healing Centers in Scottsdale.
Chandiramani treats people battling drug and alcohol addiction. He's worried about a new prescription painkiller that could hit the market called Zohydro.
"Its pure hydrocodone," Chandiramani said. "The manufacturer's saying it's safer because it doesn't have any Tylenol in it, so we won't have as many people finding those challenged with liver toxicity issues. However, does that make it more addictive?" he continued.
"I think if you look at the case of Oxycontin, there are some that believe we are setting ourselves up for Zohydro to be the Oxycontin of 2013," Chandiramani said.
But Dr. Sam Benjamin says the drug isn't the problem.
"The pill doesn't walk out of the pharmacy and jump into a teen's mouth," Benjamin said. "It's the doctors who are prescribing it and the parents who do not adequately protect their medicine cabinets."
This is why education is important when new types of prescription painkillers do come out.
As for Defreitas, he's definitely on the road to recovery.
"Life is a lot better," Defreitas said. "I'm healthy and that's the biggest thing for me."
Dr. Ravi Chandiramani, Journey Healing Centers, www.journeycenters.com or call 1-866-535-8962
Dr. Sam Benjamin, log onto www.drsambenjamin.com