For 11 years in a row, the number of people dying from drug overdoses in the United States keeps getting higher, according to a report published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Christopher M. Jones, Pharm.D.; Karin A. Mack, Ph.D.; and Leonard J. Paulozzi, M.D. entitled, “Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010.”
But these aren’t deaths caused by illegal drugs like crystal methamphetamine or cocaine: people are dying from drugs that are dispensed by pharmacies or clinics or hospitals and prescribed by doctors. Drugs overseen by health care professionals are the ones that are killing more and more people in America today.
The Biggest Problem: Pain Pills
The big three prescription drugs that are killing people appear to be the pain medications oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone. (Methadone is widely known as a treatment for those addicted to heroin, however it is also a powerful and popular pain reliever.) These pain medications were involved in about 75% of the pharmaceutical overdose deaths in 2010.
Another Growing Problem: Anti-Anxiety Drugs and Anti-Depressants
Additionally, lots of serious (and dangerous) prescription drugs are being given to people who are undergoing treatment for mental illness. Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) were involved in nearly 30% of these reported deaths; antidepressants in 18%, and antipsychotic drugs in 6%.
“Patients with mental health or substance use disorders are at increased risk for nonmedical use and overdose from prescription painkillers as well as being prescribed high doses of these drugs,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Appropriate screening, identification, and clinical management by health care providers are essential parts of both behavioral health and chronic pain management.”
Common names for benzodiazepines – do you or a loved one take one of these?
Doral -generic name: quazepam
Onfi – generic name: clobazam
Niravam – generic name: alprazolam
Prosom – generic name: estazolam
Alprazolam Intensol – generic name: alprazolam
Dalmane -generic name: flurazepam
Diazepam Intensol – generic name: diazepam
Versed – generic name: midazolam
Xanax XR – generic name: alprazolam
Serax – generic name: oxazepam
Xanax – generic name: alprazolam
Klonopin – generic name: clonazepam
Valium – generic name: diazepam
Halcion – generic name: triazolam
Klonopin Wafer – generic name: clonazepam
Librium – chlordiazepoxide
Ativan – generic name: lorazepam
Tranxene – generic name: clorazepate
Restoril – generic name: temazepam
Diastat – generic name: diazepam
Tranxene T-Tab – generic name: clorazepate
Lorazepam Intensol – generic name: lorazepam
Tranxene SD – generic name: clorazepate
Diastat AcuDial – generic name: diazepam
Diastat Pediatric – generic name: diazepam
Paxipam – generic name: halazepam
Valrelease – generic name: diazepam
Abilify (ariprazole) – used in combination with antidepressants
Aventyl HCI (nortriptyline)
Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
Etrafon (perphenazine and amitriptyline)
Limbitrol (amitriptyline and chlordiazepoxide)
Seroquel XR (quetiapine) — used in combination with antidepressants
Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
Triavil (perphenazine and amitriptyline)
Zyprexa (olanzapine) — used in combination with antidepressants
1. 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2010, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009.
2. There has been a steady rise in overdose deaths seen over the past 11 years, starting with 16,849 deaths in 1999.
3. Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase. Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.
4. In 2010, nearly 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs.
5. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651), confirming the predominant role opioid analgesics play in drug overdose deaths.