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Prescription Drug Deaths Surpass Fatal Auto Accidents In 15 States

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, October 02, 2009 2:00 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Painkillers, Oxycodone, Opioids, OxyContin, Fentanyl, Propoxyphene, Darvon, Hydrocodone

Actiq is delivered via lollipop making it one of the most popular opioid analgesics being overused in this country.
Alicia's bedside drawer including Actiq lollipop, SF Chronicle 

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IMAGE SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle Web site/ Alicia’s Story/ her bedstand with Actiq lollipops

Prescription Painkillers

It's been in the news - most recently with the death of Michael Jackson attributed to an overdose of prescrition drugs.

In Colorado and 15 other states, drugs now kill more people than auto accidents.

The reasons – driving is becoming safer and drugs, powerful painkillers, both legal and illegal, are becoming more commonplace.

For decades, auto accidents have led the nation in injury-related death. They are still number one overall, but drug overdoses are beginning to pull ahead in 15 states, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"People see a car accident as something that might happen to them," said Margaret Warner, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But as for death from a drug overdose, "maybe they see it as something that's not going happen to them."

National Vital Statistics Mortality Data

The CDC used death certificates to determine that there were 45,000 traffic accident deaths in 2006 and about 39,000 drug-induced deaths, both sudden death from ovedose and from long-term use or abuse.

Data from the National Vital Statistics System Mortality File shows:

· From 1999 through 2006, the number of fatal poisonings involving opioid analgesics more than tripled from 4,000 to 13,800 deaths.

· Opioid analgesics were involved in almost 40% of all poisoning deaths in 2006.

· In 2006, the rate of poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics was higher for males, persons aged 35-54 years, and non-Hispanic white persons than for females and those in other age and racial/ethnic groups.

Opioid analgesics are defined as methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone, fentanyl (Actiq), and propoxyphene (Darvon). Opium, heroin, and cocaine are not included in this class. Actiq can be delivered via a lollipop and many find it easy to take, such as Alicia who told her story to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Though the CDC does not find why some states are more affected than others they include: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

In Massachusetts, there were over 1,000 drug-related deaths in 2006, compared to about 500 traffic related deaths. Michigan had about 500 more drug deaths than auto accidents and New York, about 350 more.

Nationwide, the death rate from traffic crashes fell by about 6.5 percent from 1999 through 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Much of the increase is due to the overuse of prescription opiates such as painkillers methadone, Oxycontin and Vicodin. About half of the opiate medication deaths in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, involved people who got their drugs through legal prescriptions, said Caleb Banta-Green, a University of Washington research scientist, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Banta-Green says today one in five adults and one in 10 adolescents are prescribed opiates every year.

U.S. regulators announced in February, they were increasing efforts to reduce the misuse of 24 powerful painkillers. Letters were sent to 16 drug companies that collectively manufacture opioids that are subject to review, including oxycodone, methadone, morphine, fentanyl patches and related drugs.

The FDA is targeting both patch and pill forms, which generally feature extended-release formulas that are designed to give long-lasting effects. But, regulators warn that potency carries serious health risks. #


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