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Epidemic of OD’s from Prescription Pain Killers

A new analysis of drug poisoning deaths provides insights into the national epidemic that began in the 1990s. The CDC study finds that increasing use of opoids, frequently prescribed for pain relief, appear to be associated with the dramatic increase in overdose deaths.

The research, to be published this week in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, explains that the contribution of prescription pain killers to the overdose epidemic has only recently been clarified. Opiods can be easily abused and now surpass cocaine or heroin as the source of overdose deaths.

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 USA 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.

In an accompanying ‘comment’ article, David Joranson and Aaron Gilson of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Comprehensive Cancer Centre; Pain & Policy Studies Group, of Madison, Wisconsin. They caution against increasing unwarranted fears of using opioid analgesics in pain management, noting that much of the abuse of opioid analgesics is by recreational and street users and individuals with psychiatric conditions rather than pain patients.

Joranson and Gilson also point to the large quantity of opioid analgesics stolen from pharmacies every year, saying that “overdose deaths involving prescription medications do not necessarily mean they were prescribed. It is also crucial to know that most overdose deaths involve several drugs and these data cannot attribute the cause to a particular drug.”

In a second commentary, Scott Fishman, Professor of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine at University of California, Davis concludes that drug abuse and under treated pain are both public health crises, but the solution to one need not undermine the other. “The least we can do is make sure that the casualties of the war on drugs are not suffering patients who legitimately deserve relief,” he says.

Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Epidemic of OD’s from Prescription Pain Killers

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Epidemic of OD’s from Prescription Pain Killers. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2006/07/24/epidemic-of-ods-from-prescription-pain-killers/119.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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