Prescription Drug Overdoses Countinue to Catapult

The continued rise in the use of prescription opiate drugs such as Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin is leading to more overdoses.

Unintentional deaths from prescription opiates in Washington rose from 24 in 1996 to 475 a decade later, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

In our special report, “A Bitter Pill,” in April, we reported the huge surge in drug addiction to opiate medications. Overdose deaths, then, too, had already started to climb.

Mind you, these drugs are so effective at dealing with pain. I don’t want to downplay that aspect. Problem is when they land in the wrong hands — and are used purely for the pleasure of getting a Heroin-like high.

Here’s PI reporter Vanessa Ho’s first two paragraphs of her story:

More people are dying from prescription painkillers than ever before in a national epidemic that’s eclipsing past drug scourges, including heroin overdoses in the ’70s and crack cocaine deaths in the early ’90s.

The trend, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is more pronounced in Washington state, health officials said Thursday. Two years ago, local poisonings — mostly drug overdoses — surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death by unintentional injury.

Her comments on the drug culture are most certainly troubling. But I can tell you from the Kitsap County police reports I’m reading, this trend is indeed emerging. I would say that meth and marijuana remain mainstays in the drug culture around here, but the difference in the past three or so years is this: crack cocaine has trended down, and opiate abuse has surged up.

The question is now: what do we do about it?

Through increased treatment, and wider distribution of Narcan — the drug that reverses an opiate overdose — Massachusetts, interestingly, has been able to slow the death rate, says The MetroWest Daily News. But slowing is different than stopping or declining — and even their rate of death has continued upward.

Anyone have suggestions?

4 thoughts on “Prescription Drug Overdoses Countinue to Catapult

  1. I don’t have suggestions, only a question:
    What do people do for chronic pain if pain pills are discouraged?
    Ongoing severe pain can take over a person’s life…

  2. Sharon: You’re right; it’s really a conundrum. I have a sister with the issue and her doctor actually discouraged her from trying to stop her narcotics. She is down to the lowest dose of methadone and managing with OTC meds. But I’m afraid if she has another medical problem, we’ll have to start over again. Medicine has come along way – I just wish that the care and compassion for ppl with chronic pain had kept pace.

  3. That is a problem…the medical conditions seem to gather adding to the discomfort.

    Another issue not addressed is the fact that some pain meds depress the respiratory system so that a person with lung disease has to chose between a brief pain relief and the pay off of a decreased lung capability.

    I cannot imagine the ‘pleasure’ of taking pain pills…what ‘pleasure’?

  4. I have chronic headaches, but I try to get by with sweet coffee and fresh air only, no pills or other meds, and that helps. BTW, much pills is really bad for your liver. In this respect, marijuana is a better painkiller solution (as long as you can control yourself and use it only when it is really necessary, you don’t get addicted and there won’t be any harm to your lungs or liver). This is for smokers though, and I’m not the one..

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