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War on drugs

Prescription painkillers cause more overdoses than heroin or cocaine

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: war on drugs, prescription painkillers, drug overdose


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(NewsTarget) Death due to overdose of drugs such as heroin and cocaine have been overshadowed by deaths from opioid prescription painkiller overdoses, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study recently found.

The opioids Oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and fentanyl have been sold in increasing numbers over the past 15 years, and the study, published in this week's issue of Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, said the numbers of deaths from the drugs had increased concurrently.

The unintentional overdose deaths from these opioids were found to have increased approximately five percent each year between 1979 and 1990; but by 1990 through 2002 deaths increased by 18 percent each year. In 2002, more than 16,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States, with opioids overtaking both cocaine and heroin as the leading cause. Between 1999 and 2002, the researchers discovered that overdoses from heroin had increased by 12 percent, those from cocaine had increased by 22 percent, and overdoses from prescription opioids had nearly doubled.

The researchers noted alongside their results that doctors and patients should not be afraid of opioid use for pain, because abuse is most common among recreational or street drug users and psychiatric patients, according to David Joranson and Aaron Gilson of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine Pain & Policy Studies Group.

They also noted that pharmacies report a large number of opioid painkiller thefts each year and that the prescription medications that caused the deaths were not necessarily prescribed to the patients that overdosed on them.

In response to the findings, consumer health advocate Mike Adams said, "What's fascinating here is that when prescription drugs kill people, the victims are always blamed for their behavior. But when street drugs kill people, the drugs themselves are blamed. It's an interesting double standard and helps explain this nation's schizophrenic war on drugs. Have you noticed how the so-called 'war on drugs' never extends to patented chemicals that make money for Big Business? Big Pharma's chemicals are never recognized as dangerous by health authorities because there's simply too much money to be made selling them, regardless of how many people are killed."

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