Substance Abuse

Prescription Painkillers Overdose Deaths Increased Threefold Over Decade

A government report revealed that the number of deaths that could be attributed to an overdose on prescription painkillers had tripled over the past ten years.

The report, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicated that almost 5 percent of Americans, aged 12 years old and older, admitted to abusing painkillers over the past year. The surveys, conducted in 2008-2009, showed that the highest rates of abuse were in Oklahoma, while Nebraska and Iowa showed the lowest rates of prescription drug abuse.

In 2008 alone, an estimated 15,000 people died due to prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and methadone. This number included the talented actor Heath Ledger.

CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden commented that painkillers “are meant to help people who have severe pain… They are, however, highly addictive.” The number of prescription drug-related deaths in 2008 was more than thrice that of the 4,000 deaths due to narcotics in 1999.

Frieden shared that the increase in prescription drug-related deaths reflected an increase in the number of narcotic painkillers that are prescribed each year.

He also shared that prescription practices are overseen by states, and that it is within their authority to strictly monitor prescriptions, and put a stop to such practices as “pill mills” and “doctor shopping.” He added further that doctors should limit prescriptions and look for alternative treatments. For instance, a patient suffering from acute pain should only be given a three-day supply.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *