Deaths from Unintentional Overdoses of Painkillers Second only to Car Crashes
The proportion of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. has reached a harrowing level – so much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dubbed America’s current prescription drug situation a “public health crisis.” In 2007, drug overdoses were the second leading cause of accidental death; only car accidents claimed more lives. The deadliest drugs are opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone and street drugs including cocaine and heroin.
According to stopoxy.com, the Internet may be playing a role in that death toll. The University of Southern California and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) just released the results of a seven year study on the subject. Researchers found that prescription drug abuse increased as Internet access became more widespread. In fact, from 2000 to 2007, the study found that every 10 percent increase in the availability of high speed Internet was associated with a one percent increase in those admitted for treatment of prescription drug addiction.
One reason for this disturbing phenomenon is the existence of rogue pharmacies on the net. Many rogue pharmacies are located overseas, and are therefore, not under the legal jurisdiction of the U.S. Medications from these counterfeit pharmacies may not be pure or safe, and some can even be obtained without a doctor’s prescription. The ease of access to medications via these sites makes them attractive targets for would be abusers.
Another reason for the increase in abuse and accidental drug overdose is the over prescription of opiates to treat pain. Opioid painkiller prescriptions have increased by 500 percent over the past decade. Since then, the number of those admitted to substance abuse treatment facilities for opiod addiction has increased fivefold. While opiate painkillers are highly effective at treating and managing pain, those who use them are extremely vulnerable to addiction. The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reports that as many as 25 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 will abuse prescription drugs at some point in their lives.
Data from the CDC does not paint a rosy picture either. It reports that drug overdoses claim the lives of 75 people daily. Further, more than 90 percent of deaths resulting from poisoning are accidental overdoses of prescription medications that were completely avoidable. More than 28,000 people lost their lives to senseless drug overdose in 2007.
Interestingly, a large segment of opioids prescribed for pain management is coming from dentist offices. This part of the health population may have been ignored and could benefit from more education regarding the dangers of addiction and other pain management alternatives that may be available. Regardless of the source, doctors should closely supervise patients taking these types of painkillers for signs of abuse. In addition, there needs to be more educational programs for the public regarding the danger of addiction and increased risk factors such as sharing drugs with family members and friends or leaving them unattended in medicine cabinets.