Post by Bill Hembree on Nov 3, 2011 16:20:56 GMT -8
Kerry Sheridan, Washington
November 3, 2011
LETHAL overdoses from prescription painkillers have tripled in the past decade and now account for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, US health authorities say.
The quantity of painkillers on the market is so high that it would be enough to medicate every American with a standard dose of Vicodin every four hours for a month, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
''The unfortunate and in fact shocking news is that we are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription drug overdose in this country. It is an epidemic but it can be stopped,'' said CDC chief Thomas Frieden.
Advertisement: Story continues below''In fact, now the burden of dangerous drugs is being created more by a few irresponsible doctors than by drug pushers on street corners.''
The CDC Vital Signs report focuses on opioid pain relievers, including oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone, better known as Vicodin, which have quadrupled in sales to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors' offices since 1999.
Last year, 12 million Americans reported taking prescription painkillers for recreational uses, not because of a medical condition.
The number of deaths from overdoses of opioid pain relievers has more than tripled, from 4000 people in 1999 to 14,800 people in 2008.
The epidemic is at its height among middle-aged white men and American Indians or Alaskan natives, the CDC said.
Rural and poor areas tend to have the highest prescription drug overdose death rates.
Deaths from prescription drugs made up almost 75 per cent of overdose deaths in which a drug was specified on the death certificate, the CDC said, noting that deaths and hospitalisations had increased in parallel with the boost in supply.
Even though a relatively small portion of the US population admits abusing prescription painkillers, the costs to health insurance companies are huge, $US72.5 billion ($A69.6 billion) a year.