Home > Painkillers ‘kill more people than heroin and cocaine’.

[Irish Medical Times] , Culliton, Gary Painkillers ‘kill more people than heroin and cocaine’. (10 Nov 2011)

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The United States’s death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Prescription painkiller sales per person were more than three times higher in the highest state, Florida, than in the lowest state, Illinois. States with higher sales per person tended to have higher death rates from drug overdose. The new findings show that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers like hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone.

“Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, ” said CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden. “States, health insurers, healthcare providers and individuals have critical roles to play in the national effort to stop this epidemic of overdoses while we protect patients who need prescriptions to control pain.”

The increased use of prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons (without a prescription for the ‘high’ they cause), along with growing sales, has contributed to the large number of overdoses and deaths. In 2010, one in every 20 people in the US age 12 and older — a total of 12 million people — reported using prescription painkillers non-medically, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Based on the data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, sales of these drugs to pharmacies and healthcare providers have increased by more than 300 per cent since 1999.

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that’s stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “Healthcare providers and patients should be educated on the risks of prescription painkillers.

And parents and grandparents can take time today to properly dispose of any unneeded or expired medications from the home and to talk to their kids about the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.”


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