U.S. Pain-Killer Deaths Soaring
Posted by Childress on August 22, 2006
Consider this news in the context of pharm parties, when kids mix various prescription drugs in a bowl, grab a bunch, and wash them down with liquor. It is from new research conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and was recently is published in the journal, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.
Trends analysis of drug poisoning deaths has helped explain a national epidemic of overdose deaths in the U.S. that began in the 1990s and points to the contribution of prescription pain killers to the epidemic.
Drugs called “opioids” are frequently prescribed to relieve pain, but if abused they can kill. Over the past 15 years, sales of opioid pain killers, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and fentanyl, have increased, and deaths from these drugs have increased in parallel.
In 2002, over 16,000 people died in the U.S. as a result of drug overdoses, with most deaths related to opioids, heroin, and cocaine. Opioids surpassed both cocaine and heroin in extent of involvement in these drug overdoses between 1999 and 2002.
The situation appears to be accelerating. Between 1979 and 1990 the rate of deaths attributed to unintentional drug poisoning increased by an average of 5.3% each year. Between 1990 and 2002, the rate increased by 18.1% per year. The contribution played by opioids is also increasing. Between 1999 and 2002 the number of overdose death certificates that mention poisoning by opioid pain killers went up by 91.2%. While the pain killer category showed the greatest increase, death certificates pointing a finger of blame at heroin and cocaine also increased by 12.4% and 22.8% respectively.