For years, the predominant cause of injury-related deaths in the United States has been
traffic accidents. However, recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicates that 16
states now see more drug-related deaths than any other type of injury-related death and
that number is rapidly growing.
Some of the key findings in the report include a more than tripling of opioid analgesic-induced deaths between 1999 and 2006. In 2006, roughly 40 percent of all poisoning deaths were caused by opioid analgesics. In the 35 to 54 age group, these drugs are the leading cause of death overall in the United States. Fatal opioid analgesic-related overdose poisonings represent the fastest increasing segment of overall deaths caused by poisonings.
Opioid analgesics are pain medications typically prescribed to treat temporary pain. Among those cited as embodying the greatest increase in deaths is methadone, a pain reliever that was responsible for the greatest increase in deaths between 1999 and 2006 and the one that witnessed a sevenfold increase in deaths. Other killers include benzodiazepine sedatives, OxyContin (oxycodone), and Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone).
While it is unclear in each specific case whether the drugs were obtained legally through prescription or illegally, the report does specify that at least half of the deaths were caused by legal opiate prescriptions. It also indicates that many deaths are caused by a combination of various opiates which may or may not include illegal opiates.
Beginning in the 1990s at the behest of drug company prodding, doctors began to increasingly prescribe painkillers to patients for all sorts of symptoms. As a result, one in five adults today and one in ten kids receive some sort of opiate prescription from their doctors every year. Interestingly, the corresponding data from this report and others concludes that the increase in opiate prescriptions is directly correlated with the increase in deaths from opiate overdoses, pointing the finger at pharmaceutical opiates rather than the illegal street kind.
A study published last December in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the threat of prescription opiate abuse and subsequent injury and death statistics, implicating prescription opiates as the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Also specifying that legal purchases of methadone have increased more than 13-fold in the past ten years along with a nine-fold increase in OxyContin prescriptions, the study is a clear indictment not only of doctor abuse in over-prescribing drugs but in the inherently addictive nature of the drugs themselves.
Many young teens who become addicted to opiates such as OxyContin eventually progress to cheap forms of heroin that they can snort and even inject. For this reason, heroin has become a widespread problem both in suburban youth enclaves as well as in the inner city. Because prescription opiates are highly addictive, many people of all ages become "junkies" who are constantly looking for a fix, whether through a prescription or through an illegal street drug.
In a 2007 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it was discovered that 2.1 million people ages 12 and older who had tried an illicit drug in 2007 elected for prescription pain drugs as their drug of choice, a figure 57,000 higher than those who chose marijuana. Many of these same people graduate to heroin within just a few years.
During the same year, Purdue Pharma was charged by the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations with a "conspiracy" to illegally market its drug using various fraudulent methods. One method included working with professional medical organizations to alter the prescription guidelines for OxyContin to include those with chronic pain in addition to those with temporary aches. Purdue Pharma was fined $700 million, an amount considered by many to be pittance when compared to the thousands of deaths that have been directly caused by the abuse of OxyContin. To this day, the drug remains on the market despite the fact that the company has been criminally convicted in U.S. Federal Court on felony charges for its illegal actions surrounding this dangerous drug.
The entire controversy is yet another case-in-point example of the deadly consequences of pharmaceutical drugs and the companies that produce them. What would immediately unleash the widespread confiscation and elimination of all natural herbs and supplements warrants only appeasement fines by the very agencies that are sworn to protect the people, not the drug lords. Until pharmaceutical companies are held responsible for the damage caused by their products, states will continue to ratchet up drug-induced fatalities as their number one cause of death.(Natural News, 10.11.2009, Ethan Huff, citizen journalist, See all articles by this author
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Increase in Fatal Poisonings Involving Opioid Analgesics in the United States, 1999-2006 - National Center for Health Statistics
In 16 states, drug deaths overtake traffic fatals - Associated Press
New Study Blames Prescription Drugs for Bulk of Fatal Overdoses - U.S. News & World Report
Heroin Hits the Suburbs Hard Amid Wave of Drug Abuse by Teens and 20-Somethings - U.S. News & World Report
The OxyContin 'Conspiracy' - Is $700 Million Enough? - ABC News