Increase in U.S. Prescription Drug Overdoses

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A look at the 7 years between 1999 and 2006 showed a 65% increase in hospitalizations due to prescription opioid, sedative, and tranquilizer use.

The Study

A study to be published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at data from hospitalization across the U.S. from 1999 to 2006. The researchers found a number of interesting statistics suggesting a significant increase in prescription drug abuse.

The Findings

  • 37% increase in hospitalizations resulting from unintentional overdoses of opioids and sedatives (compared to a 21% increase in unintentional overdoses of other substances, including street drugs and OTC drugs).
  • 130% increase in intentional overdoses of opioids and sedatives (compared to 53% increase in intentional overdoses of other substances).
  • 65% increase in hospitalizations resulting from prescription opioid, sedative, and tranquilizer use (including both accidental and intentional use).
  • Methadone-related hospitalizations rose 400%, while barbiturate hospitalizations decreased 41% and antidepressant hospitalizations decreased 13%.

Why Is This Important?

Poisoning is the country's second leading cause of death from unintentional injury, and the increase in poisonings resulting from prescription drug abuse is a matter of serious concern. More people are being prescribed opioids and other prescription substances that are prone to addiction, and we're seeing the consequences in the rapidly rising number of fatal overdoses and medication abusers. We too often think prescription drugs are safe just because they can be legally possessed and used, but they are powerful substances that can be dangerous and even fatal if not used as prescribed.

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