Drug Overdose Fatalities Up for 11th Year

Drug Overdose Fatalities Up for 11th Year

News Feb 21, 2013

CHICAGO (AP) — 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.

Continue Reading

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

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source
AP Medical Writers
LINDSEY TANNER
The budget cut allowed the department to cross-staff, using firefighters to staff ambulances due to medical calls outnumbering fire calls.
Starting next year, the insurer will reimburse treatment that doesn’t require the emergency department.
One of the two Northern California wildfires have been fully contained due to cooler temperatures and light rain.
Kenneth Scheppke challenged longstanding traditions in patient care that have not withstood current scrutiny.

EMTs and other first responders who treated the wounded on scene of the Vegas shooting could be at risk for post-traumatic stress.

All EMS, fire, and law enforcement agencies in the county will participate in the drill along with 100 volunteers portraying victims of the shooting.
As the state begins facing the effects of the opioid crisis, medical professionals, law enforcement and prosecutors join the national discussion on possible solutions to the epidemic.
Only one of three in the country, the "rapid extrication team" assists in rescuing injured firefighters while local crews battle the forest fires.
The paramedic-staffed chase car would respond to ALS calls in a timelier manner and help alleviate several local fire departments' calls.
Las Vegas and Orlando massacres set a solemn tone for the normally festive event.
In a project to raise grant funding that began a year ago, the Richmond Ambulance Authority and VCU Health teamed up to provide 35 of Richmond’s Public Schools with Bleeding Control (BCON) equipment. 
Mercy Health's new two-story, 29,000 square foot center features a Level 1 trauma center, an expanded surgical area, and more comfortable patient and visitor access.
Luigi Daberdaku has made 1,500 sandwiches so far for the North Bay first responders managing the wildfires in California.
The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center dedicated to providing resources to those affected by the mass shooting will open on Monday at 1523 Pinto Lane.
A community of nearly 500 deaf people were the last to be notified and evacuated during the wildfires in Sonoma County, calling for better emergency alert systems.