Painkiller overdose deaths skyrocketed in past decade

People in Joliet likely have known that painkiller addiction has become a serious problem in the U.S., but reading the number of overdoses in recent years may still be startling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on July 2 that the number of overdoses among women increased fivefold in just 12 years. Men also had a sharply increased rate of painkiller overdose at 265 percent over that period.

As officials seek to combat this deadly problem, some are examining how victims got access to the drugs that ultimately killed them. Part of the issue appears to be doctors that over prescribe these powerful drugs or prescribe their patients dangerous combinations of drugs that can be fatal.

The CDC is encouraging doctors to look out for signs that a patient is addicted to painkillers and follow guidelines when prescribing narcotics or opioids. The agency also warns physicians against prescribing a combination of painkillers and benzodiazepines, which are commonly used to treat emotional disorders like panic disorder.

Prescription drug monitoring programs also exist to help doctors keep track of patients suspected of having a dependency on painkillers and “doctor shopping,” or going from doctor to doctor to get new prescriptions to feed their addiction. Patients can also protect themselves by informing their physician about all their current prescriptions, including over-the-counter drugs, so that he or she has all necessary information before issuing a new prescription.

When prescribed and used properly, narcotics and opioids can significantly improve the quality of life for those in severe pain. But they need to be prescribed only to those who truly need them.

Source: CBS News, “CDC: Women’s painkiller overdose deaths up 400 percent over last decade,” Michelle Castillo, July 2, 2013

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