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

atively, the 2007 U.S. unintentional drug poisoning deaths would be equivalent to losing an airplane carrying 150 passengers and crew every day for six months, which clearly would be totally unacceptable from a public health perspective.

The CDC sounded alarms regarding the issue in several reports last year. In June 2010, for example, the agency announced that the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that 1 in 5 high school students in the United States have abused prescription drugs, including the opioid painkillers OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. Opioids are synthetic versions of opium that are used to treat moderate and severe pain.

And in June last year the CDC reported that visits to hospital emergency departments involving nonmedical use of prescription narcotic pain relievers has more than doubled, rising 111 percent, between 2004 and 2008.

The authors note various reports citing some key factors linked to the problem: increased nonmedical use of opioids without a prescription " solely for the feeling it causes" and that medical providers, psychiatrists and primary care physicians included, may fail to anticipate among their patients the extent of overlap between chronic pain, mental illness and substance abuse.

For example, 15 percent to 30 percent of people with unipolar, bipolar, anxiety, psychotic, non-psychotic, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders will also have substance abuse problems. Dr. Patkar said, "Similarly, people with substance abuse are more likely to have another mental illness and a significant number of patients with chronic pain will have mental illness or substance abuse problems."

Moreover, opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, and sleep aids "are frequently prescribed in combination despite their potentially harmful additive effects," the authors point out. And it's the combinations of these drugs that are frequently found in the toxicology reports of peop
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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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