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Dangerous drugs

Sharp Rise in Fatal Medication Mistakes at Home

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: dangerous drugs, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) The number of deaths from medication mistakes made at home has increased more than 700 percent in the last 20 years in the United States, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers inspected 50 million death certificates for those that involves fatal drug errors, overdoses or combinations, but excluding homicide, suicide or fatal side effects. While there were only 1,132 such deaths in 1983, by 2004 this number had increased to 12,426 - a 700 percent increase once adjusted for population growth. Yet deaths in supervised health settings increased only 5 percent in that time.

Some study critics suggested that the scale of the increase might have been overestimated, because death certificates these days are more likely to report the location of death and autopsies are more likely to include toxicology tests. But the researchers countered that the percentage of deaths taking place in homes has not substantially increased, nor have rates of other poisoning.

The researchers blamed the surge in fatal drug errors on the increasing popularity of prescription painkillers and narcotics.

"The amount of medical supervision is going down and the amount of responsibility put on the patient's shoulders is going up," lead author David P. Phillips said.

The most pronounced increase came from mixings of pharmaceutical drugs with alcohol or street drugs. While such mixing accounted for only 0.04 of every 100,000 deaths at home in 1983, it accounted for 1.29 per 100,000 in 2004.

"[People] think, 'Oh, one drink won't hurt.' Then they have three or four," said Cynthia Kuhn of Duke University Medical Center.

An attitude that prescription drugs are a cure-all, and a lack of proper respect for their power have also probably contributed to the problem, experts say.

"We're sort of drug happy," said J. Lyle Bootman of the University of Arizona. "We have this general attitude that drugs can fix everything."

Bootman referred in particular to baby boomers in their 40s and '50s, among whom the largest increase in deaths was seen.

Sources for this story include: ap.google.com.

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