Every fourteen minutes, someone in America dies of a drug overdose. Sharp increases in fatalities have been noted over the last two decades and most of the dramatic increases are being driven by prescription drug overdoses.
In total, the annual deaths from drug overdoses exceed a major airline crash every week killing everyone on board. Planes would be grounded immediately until the problem was identified and remedied. The issue of prescription drug abuse in America will be much more difficult to remediate.
A recent study of the Center for Disease Control data revealed that for the first time in America, more Americans died from drug overdoses than from automobile accidents. With the notable exception of drug overdose, most preventable death in America has been declining for the last three decades.
Prescription drug overdoses have increased exponentially, in fact, they have doubled in the last decade. In 2009, 33,808 Americans perished in automobile accidents and for the first time since records have been compiled, drug overdoses accounted for 37,485 deaths in America. Prescription drug overdoses now account for more drug deaths than heroin or cocaine combined.
The CDC identified that Vicodin and Xanax killed more Americans in 2009 than Heroin and Cocaine combined. Deaths from prescription painkillers, Vicodin and Oxycontin increased by 256-percent between 2000 and 2008. Deaths from Valium and Xanax increased by 284-percent between 2000 and 2008. Deaths from Cocaine and Heroin rose by 68-percent and 56-percent respectively during the same time period. Fentanyl a drug more potent than Morphine can be used as a skin patch or as a loll-pop, usage routes that belie the drugs lethality when abused.
The most commonly abused drugs in America are Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma with Vicodin also known as Hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is a powerful drug with an enormous abuse potential. Not surprisingly, Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed drug and is also the most frequently abused drug in America.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that Opiate use has increased by 111-percent between 2004 and 2008. Surprisingly, the greatest level of drug abuse is among Americans in their forties, followed by those in their fifties, followed by teens and young adults.
A 2010 University of Michigan study of high school students found that teens chose Vicodin as their drug of choice second only to Marijuana. The National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse found that 15-percent of those in grades 9-12 admitted to prescription drug abuse.
There is no typical drug abuser other than they represent Americans of every age group and demographic.
Overdose victims range from the teenager that mixes a lethal drug cocktail to the forty year old addicted to pain medications for a bad back to the elderly grandmother who forgets that she already took her pain pills and takes them again.
Eight out of 10 prescriptions written in the entire world every day are written for Americans. The presence of drugs in our lives has become ubiquitous. Fifty percent of all Americans are taking one or more prescribed medications every day. Even very young children are put at risk from overdose because of the presence of drugs in the home.
If drugs are not properly secured, young children may accidently ingest them. The motivation for abusing drugs may range from a college student who wants to get high you a housewife that has underestimated the powerful interaction of alcohol and painkillers to the injured construction worker or soldier who can no longer get through their lives without their medications.
As parents, we can secure dangerous medications where they cannot be taken accidently or for abuse purposes. Adults can also set an example by not reaching for a pill when they are stressed and instead go for a walk or a run. Americans may also need to ask government officials to study this issue more closely so that a national awareness and urgency can be brought to this important issue.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net