Prescription Drug Overdoses in USA Must Be Stopped: One Lesson from Whitney Houston Media Coverage


Prescription Drug Overdoses in USA Must Be Stopped: One Lesson from Whitney Houston Media Coverage

The country is still reeling over the untimely death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48.  The State of New Jersey is flying its flags at half-staff and her small, private New Jersey funeral will be broadcast live, online, to comfort her millions of fans in the United States and worldwide.

And amidst the chatter about her talent as a singer and an actor there is the recurring question of why.  Why did Whitney Houston die? No one will know until the toxicology results are back and the medical examiner makes the final determinations.

However, media coverage as well as an outraged and upset American public are wondering about the impact of prescription drugs upon this tragedy.  Some, including celebrities like American Idol’s Steven Tyler, are operating under the assumption that a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol led to Ms. Houston’s demise.

There is some good to come out of this bad – and here it is:  if the coverage of Whitney Houston’s death bring more public awareness about the very real danger of drugs that have been distributed by a doctor through a pharmacy, then a life may be saved.  Because prescription drugs are killing people in this country.

Prescription Drugs Kill People

According to the Center for Disease Control, 100 people die in the United States EVERY DAY from a prescription drug overdose. The CDC also reports that there has been a 300% increase in overdose prescription drug deaths in this country since 1999; more people died from taking pills that a doctor had prescribed than those who died from cocaine and heroin overdoses combined.

That’s scary, isn’t it?

Here’s what happens. Most of these prescription drug killers are prescribed to deal with pain, or the brain’s perception of pain.  They are powerful, they have to be in order to block the brain’s message of “pain! pain!” They also slow down breathing.  Some may find they are having to take more and more just to get relief.  Big enough dose, and that slow breathing may lead to breathing simply stopping.  No oxygen, the person dies.

Prescription Drugs Mean Big Money for Big Pharma

These pills are sold by pill manufacturers and they are then distributed by pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, etc. under a doctor’s okay.  And they have been very big business in the past ten years:  in 2010, the sales of prescription painkillers was 400% higher than 1999.  The CDC brings this home with this fact:  there were enough of these pills prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month.

Products Liability or Medical Malpractice? Legal Remedies for Wrongful Death by Prescription Drugs

Right now, the reality is that there is a major crisis in this country with people dying from pills they are getting from a prescription source.  Until the law starts to regulate this problem, the only laws that stand for justice at this point are those allowing injury victims and their families to sue for the harm they have experienced from prescription drugs.  These may be due to medical malpractice by a doctor or health care provider, or because of defective products or other product liability concerns, and it may all too often be filed as a wrongful death case by those grieving the loss of a loved one.

Congress and state legislatures need to do more here.  The FDA has shown itself insufficient in protecting the public from drug harm.  We need change.

Image source: Center for Disease Control.

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