prescription drugs, accidental overdose prescription drugs

Prescription Drug–Related Deaths on the Rise

July 30, 2008 08:48 AM
by Isabel Cowles
In the last two decades, accidental deaths due to at-home opiates have gone up in tandem with an increased number of prescriptions.

30-Second Summary

According to an investigation of U.S. death certificates, at-home drug overdoses have risen significantly in the last 20 years

The deaths are not “the result of toddlers getting into medicines or the elderly mixing up their pills,” said medical epidemiologist Leonard J. Paulozzi. Rather, the majority of victims are working-age people with prescriptions.

The increase in deaths runs parallel to an increase in prescribed pain killers and sedatives. The lead author of the study, David P. Phillips of UC San Diego, said that the study showed, “The amount of medical supervision is going down and the amount of responsibility put on the patient's shoulders is going up.”

One reason why prescription drugs are causing an increase in accidental deaths is that a wide variety are often prescribed to patients who mix them improperly—painkillers can be especially dangerous when combined with other narcotics as they mute the apparent effects of other drugs.

B. Joseph Guglielmo, chairman of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the UC San Francisco said, “People who are chronically on narcotics become tolerant of the benefit of taking pain away. But they don’t become tolerant to the depression in respiratory drive.” As a result, says Sid Nelson, dean of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Washington, “You become unconscious and stop breathing.”

However, a report published by the Archives of Internal Medicine argues that these accidental deaths can be prevented through greater attention on drug distribution in domestic settings.

Headline Link: Rising rates of prescription drug deaths

Background: Accidental deaths via prescription drugs

Reference: Unintentional drug overdose statistics

Related Topic: Treatments for accidental overdose


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