Natural News, relying on data from the CDC, reported that prescription drug deaths shot up 68 percent in a five year period. Statistics show that for the reporting period, prescription drug deaths were the second leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States. The percentage increase translates to increase from 11,000 deaths to 20,000 deaths between 1999 and 2004. The largest increase was in the age range of 15 to 24, but all age groups other than the 75 year old plus set saw increases of at least 35 percent. The one variable in the data that is hard to pin down is the number of reported deaths that were unrecognized suicides, but it does not appear that such deaths were a large number. It is also possible that some prescription drug deaths during the study period that were reported as suicides or intentional deaths may have, in fact, been unintentional. Regardless, the problem is significant.
But there are some bright spots in the realm of prescription drug deaths. The Utah Department of Health recently reported that prescription drug overdose deaths are down 12.6 percent in the state between 2007 and 2008. Although that number translates to 40 fewer deaths in that one year period, there were still 277 deaths from what public health officials see as a preventable cause of death. The numbers are encouraging insofar as this data points to the largest decrease in reported prescription drug deaths since 1994, but Dr. Todd Grey, Chief Medical Examiner for the Utah State Office of the Medical Examiner, has indicated that drug overdoses are still the leading cause of death in Utah.
To combat the situation in Utah, the Utah Department of Health launched the "Use Only As Directed" campaign in May 2008. The resource offers the following tips when it comes to prescription pain medication:
Help prevent these types of deaths by following these tips:
1) Never take prescription pain medication that is not prescribed to you.
2) Never adjust your own doses.
3) Never mix with alcohol.
4) Taking with other depressants such as sleep aids or anti-anxiety medications can be dangerous.
5) Always keep your medications locked in a safe place.
6) Always dispose of any unused or expired medications.
Prescription drugs are the silent killer in the medicine cabinet – don’t let them unintentionally take your life or that of a loved one.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.