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Narcotic pain relief drug overdose deaths a national epidemic
Date:4/25/2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. Unintentional overdose deaths in teens and adults have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. In some 20 states in 2007 the number of unintentional drug poisoning deaths exceeded either motor vehicle crashes or suicides, two of the leading causes of injury death. Prescription opioid pain medications are driving this overdose epidemic. Opioid pain medications were also involved in about 36 percent of all poisoning suicides in the U.S. in 2007.

In a commentary article released ahead of the print version in the April 19, 2011 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, physicians affiliated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Duke University Medical Center cite data noting that in 2007 unintentional deaths due to prescription opioid pain killers were involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

The new report was co-authored by CDC medical epidemiologist Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, MPH; Richard H. Weisler, MD, adjunct professor of psychiatry at UNC and adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center; and Ashwin A. Patkar, MD, associate professor in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Duke University. More than describing the scope of unintentional prescription opioid overdose deaths, their report is aimed at helping doctors control the problem.

Approximately 27,500 people died from unintentional drug overdoses in 2007, driven to a large extent by prescription opioid overdoses. Dr. Weisler says that to put this in perspective, the number of 2007 U.S. unintentional drug poisoning deaths alone represents tragically about 4.6 times as many deaths as all U.S. fatalities in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from the beginning of both wars through Feb 20, 2011.

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Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-966-9366
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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