Deaths from Prescription Drug Overdoses Eclipsing Deaths from Illegal Drugs

The danger associated with prescription drug abuse is one that has been receiving increased attention as of late, but the toll it is taking in the country continues to rise. Outlook Online reported the results from several studies on the subject that show significant increases in abuse and even death.

A study released recently by the Oregon State Medical Examiner, Dr. Karen Gunson, found that more people died in Oregon from overdosing on the prescription drug methadone in 2008 than of heroin overdoses.

Gunson noted that methamphetamine-related deaths skyrocketed last year, more than doubling rates seen seven years ago. According to her report, in 2008, 229 people died from heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or a combination of those drugs, compared to 212 in 2007, an 8 percent increase.

170 people died from overdosing on prescription medication. Of those victims, 131 died from methadone and 39 from oxycodone. Gunson highlighted that most of the methadone overdoses occurred in patients with chronic pain or those who had obtained the drug illegally as opposed to those in long-term care.

This report highlights that the ease in which prescription drugs can be obtained, both legitimately and illegally, increases the chance of abuse. Whether these deaths are accidental or intentional, the risks associated with even controlled use of a prescription drug can be perceived by patients as imagined or overblown, putting these individuals at increased risk of addiction and abuse.

While this is the first time Gunson’s office has included overdoses caused by prescription medication in her annual report, considering the growing number of cases, it is likely to remain a staple feature to continue to shine light on the problem.

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