According to a new study, the number of deaths resulting from prescription narcotic overdose is now higher than traffic fatalities. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that, in 2009, at least 37,485 people died from drug overdose compared to 36,284 fatal traffic accidents. The L.A. Times discussed this growing problem in a recent article.
Patient Dependence on Prescription Drugs
Experts and physicians have seen an increased dependence on prescription drug use, particularly pain and anxiety medications. These products are extremely potent and addictive, and they can prove fatal if combined incorrectly with other pharmaceuticals or alcohol.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the most commonly abused drugs include Soma, Vicodin, OxyContin and Xanax. In fact, a relatively new opioid painkiller known as Fentanyl is taking the nation by storm; it is 100 times stronger than morphine and comes in both lollipop and patch form. This group of legal opioids causes more deaths than both cocaine and heroin combined.
There is no single demographic affected; teenagers find medications in their parents’ medicine cabinets and pop the pills to get a high similar to heroin. Adult men and women suffering from chronic pain, bad knees and strained backs take painkillers to ease their symptoms, but often find themselves addicted to the drugs.
Doctors Contribute to Drug Dependence Problems
Many attribute the epidemic to well-meaning doctors, people who saw patients in pain and attempted to make their lives easier by prescribing pharmaceuticals. This, combined with a driving marketing campaign from manufacturers, led to the prescribing of more pain and anxiety drugs for patients of all ages and conditions.
People may feel safer taking these medications because the prescriptions are given by a doctor and are purchased at a pharmacy counter. Similarly, teenagers and young adults may falsely believe that they can safely take the drugs because they see their parents doing so. They do not realize that prescription drugs can be as dangerous as illegal narcotics.
Some deaths result from medication errors or unsafe drug interactions. These mistakes can also cause permanent disability or other health problems. A doctor may prescribe a dangerous medication for pain simply because the patient asks for it. A good example would be the recent allegations against Michael Jackson’s doctor, who prescribed him pain medication so strong, it was intended for operation rooms only.
Sometimes, doctors prescribe the wrong dosage, resulting in wrongful death or serious injury. Any individual who is involved in the prescribing of pharmaceuticals is likely to make a mistake such as the drug manufacturer, the doctor who prescribes the medication, the pharmacist or the nurse who administers the drug.
If you were injured or if someone you love died because of a prescription drug overdose or prescription error, contact our office. The time to file a claim is limited, so act now. Our knowledgeable attorneys will provide a free consultation and work to ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.