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Posted on 08-18-2014

Deaths from Prescription Opioids Eclipse Those from Two Major Illicit Drugs Combined

Much has been written about the medical profession's overprescribing of painkillers and the rash of patient deaths that have occurred.  But what do we really know about the epidemic? Researchers from McGill University in Canada have for the first time performed an extensive review of existing research to come up with several disturbing conclusions. Among them, the U.S. and Canada rank number 1 and number 2 respectively in per capita opioid consumption and deaths from overdosing are increasing. In both countries, deaths from prescription painkillers currently outnumber deaths from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states "drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs." Such drugs sedate the user and cause a euphoric feeling, slowing the breathing so much that sometimes it stops altogether.  The McGill team also identified 17 determinants of increasing opioid-related mortality.  Nicolas King, the study's lead researcher, hopes the research will help policy makers and clinicians in both countries find informed solutions for the growing, multi-causal problem.

Source: 1) "Deaths from prescribed painkillers 'higher than heroin and cocaine combined'", by Marie Ellis, MNT.com, June 19, 2014. 2) "Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses," CDC.gov, July 2, 2013.

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