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Preventing Drug Overdose
Drug overdose deaths have increased for 11th consecutive year. In fact, overdoses of prescription pain-killers and heroin, have overtaken AIDS to become the leading cause of death of homeless adults, according to a Boston study of homeless residents. Dr. Travis Baggett of Massachusetts General Hospital, the lead author of the study confirms a problem that is echoed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
See details in the research letter, “Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
CDC’s analysis shows that more than 38,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2010, up from 37,000 deaths in 2009. In 2010, nearly 60% of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths.
Researchers found that drugs often prescribed for mental health conditions were involved in a significant number of pharmaceutical overdose deaths. Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) were involved in nearly 30% of these deaths; antidepressants in 18% and antipsychotic drugs in 6 percent.
“Patients with mental health or substance use disorders are at increased risk for nonmedical use and overdose from prescription painkillers as well as being prescribed high doses of these drugs,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Appropriate screening, identification, and clinical management by health care providers are essential parts of both behavioral health and chronic pain management.”
You can prevent an overdose for yourself or someone else:
- Be sure to talk with your physician if you have concerns about dependency. Overcoming stigma to discuss the issue of relapse and drug use is key.
- Adhere to opioid labels about the approved uses of these medications.
- Seek out the support of a mental health professional or at the least call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at a Lifeline crisis center near you.
Photo Credit: Debora Cartagena