Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

February 20, 2013

Drug overdose deaths up for 11th consecutive year

CHICAGO — Drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th straight year, federal data show, and most of them were accidents involving addictive painkillers despite growing attention to risks from these medicines.

“The big picture is that this is a big problem that has gotten much worse quickly,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which gathered and analyzed the data.

In 2010, the CDC reported, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths nationwide. Medicines, mostly prescription drugs, were involved in nearly 60 percent of overdose deaths that year, overshadowing deaths from illicit narcotics.

The report appears in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

It details which drugs were at play in most of the fatalities. As in previous recent years, opioid drugs — which include OxyContin and Vicodin — were the biggest problem, contributing to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths.

Frieden said many doctors and patients don’t realize how addictive these drugs can be, and that they’re too often prescribed for pain that can be managed with less risky drugs.

They’re useful for cancer, “but if you’ve got terrible back pain or terrible migraines,” using these addictive drugs can be dangerous, he said.

Medication-related deaths accounted for 22,134 of the drug overdose deaths in 2010.

Anti-anxiety drugs including Valium were among common causes of medication-related deaths, involved in almost 30 percent of them. Among the medication-related deaths, 17 percent were suicides.

The report’s data came from death certificates, which aren’t always clear on whether a death was a suicide or a tragic attempt at getting high. But it does seem like most serious painkiller overdoses were accidental, said Dr. Rich Zane, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The study’s findings are no surprise, he added. “The results are consistent with what we experience” in ERs, he said, adding that the statistics no doubt have gotten worse since 2010.

Some experts believe these deaths will level off. “Right now, there’s a general belief that because these are pharmaceutical drugs, they’re safer than street drugs like heroin,” said Don Des Jarlais, director of the chemical dependency institute at New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center.

“But at some point, people using these drugs are going to become more aware of the dangers,” he said.

Frieden said the data show a need for more prescription drug monitoring programs at the state level, and more laws shutting down “pill mills” — doctor offices and pharmacies that over-prescribe addictive medicines.

Last month, a federal panel of drug safety specialists recommended that Vicodin and dozens of other medicines be subjected to the same restrictions as other narcotic drugs like oxycodone and morphine. Meanwhile, more and more hospitals have been establishing tougher restrictions on painkiller prescriptions and refills.

One example: The University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora is considering a rule that would ban emergency doctors from prescribing more medicine for patients who say they lost their pain meds, Zane said.

———

Stobbe reported from Atlanta.

———

Online:

JAMA: http://www.jama.ama-assn.org

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov

———

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at http://www.twitter.com

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Taiwan Gas Explosions_Stew.jpg Gas explosions in Taiwan

    At least 24 people were killed and 271 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan’s second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Immigration Overload_Roge.jpg Immigration courts speed up children’s cases

    Immigration courts are speeding up hearings for the tens of thousands of Central American children caught on the U.S. border after criticism that the backlogged system is letting immigrants stay in the country for years while waiting for their cases to be heard.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Extra jurors seated for long Ga. salmonella trial

    After three days of jury selection, a panel with plenty of extra members was seated Thursday to hear the case of three people charged in connection with a deadly salmonella outbreak traced to a southwest Georgia peanut plant five years ago.

    August 1, 2014

  • Liberia West Africa E_Roge.jpg Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    The death toll from the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa as security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital Thursday looking for patients and others exposed to the disease.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Roge.jpg U.S., U.N. announce deal on Gaza cease-fire

    Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning Friday, during which time there will be negotiations on a more durable truce in the 24-day-old Gaza war, the United States and United Nations announced Thursday.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Congress_Stew.jpg Congress oks VA, highway bills, not border measure

    Congress ran full-tilt into election-year gridlock over immigration Thursday and staggered toward a five-week summer break after failing to agree on legislation to cope with the influx of young immigrants flocking illegally to the United States.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wisconsin Unions_Stew.jpg Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds union law

    The fight over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s signature policy achievement, a law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public employees, ended Thursday with the state Supreme Court declaring it to be constitutional.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1714, Britain's Queen Anne died at age 49; she was succeeded by George I.

    August 1, 2014

  • GBI: Sheriff's Youth Home resident arrested in Hahira

    GBI: Sheriff's Youth Home resident arrested in Hahira

    July 31, 2014

  • Hospital: 33 dead after Guinea concert stampede

    Hundreds of people leaving a late-night rap concert on a beach in Guinea rushed to leave through a single exit, creating a stampede that killed at least 33 people, officials said Wednesday.

    July 31, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results