Poisonings From Opioids, Sedatives, And Tranquilizers On The Rise

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According to an article published by WebMD, a recent research study revealed a dramatic increase in poisonings from prescription drugs such as opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers. The study, which was published in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, indicates a 65% increase in such poisonings between 1999 and 2006.

Jeffrey H. Coben, MD, the study author noted:

[Certain prescription drugs] are just as powerful and dangerous as other notorious street drugs, and we need to ensure people are aware of these dangers and that treatment services are available for those with substance abuse problems.

After examining data from about eight million hospitalizations a year, the researchers made the following findings:

  • Unintentional poisoning is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S.
  • In 2005, unintentional poisoning surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death for people 35 to 54.
  • Unintentional poisoning deaths have been on the rise for more than 15 years.
  • Intentional poisonings from prescription rose 130% during the seven-year period, compared to 53% in intentional poisonings from other substances.
  • The largest increase in the number of hospitalizations was caused by benzodiazepines. Hospitalizations from that class of drug increased 39% during the period studied.
  • Hospitalizations for poisoning by barbiturates decreased 41% and hospitalizations for poisoning by antidepressants decreased 13%.
  • Hospitalizations for poisoning by other drugs, medicinal, and biological substances increased 33%.
  • Unintentional poisonings by other substances increased 21%.
  • Unintentional drug-poisoning deaths increased 68% between 1999 and 2004, and the majority of the increase has been attributed to deaths associated with prescription opioids.

If you are currently taking opioids, sedatives, or tranquilizers, ask your doctor if these medications are truly necessary. Many of these drugs are highly addictive. If you have developed an addiction, now is the time to step up and seek help. Ask your primary care physician for assistance and information about available resources.

Contributing author: Jon Stefanuca

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