In recent years, painkiller overdose and resulting fatalities have been a matter of great concern. The rate of death from painkiller use has nearly doubled in the past decade. However, in a recent article, USA Today reports of the first decrease in deaths since 1999.
The data on death by prescription painkillers shows a strong inverse correlation with deaths by heroin overdose. While the rates of prescription overdoses declined, there was a corresponding increase in heroin overdoses. This leads to the possibility that federal restrictions on narcotics have led some addicts to turn to heroin rather than prescription drugs.
The prescription painkiller OxyContin is in the same family of opioids as heroin. OxyContin is notoriously abused and caused 16,917 deaths in 2011, more than 4 times the number of incidents in 1999. In 2012, the first signs of improvement were shown: the number of deaths dropped by 5%, to 16,007 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was not only the statistics for OxyContin that saw an improvement. Deaths from all prescription drug categories dropped by a total of 3% in 2012.
In another troubling statistic, heroin overdoses increased by 35%, from 4,397 in 2011, to 5,927 in 2012. This data has lead many to believe that a decrease in availability of prescription opioids has lead to a larger demand for illicit drugs like heroin.
While a decrease in annual deaths is an improvement, there is still a long way to go. Prescription drug overdose continues to claim lives. And yet, there are proven methods for reducing some of these deaths. For example, the pharmaceutical industry is aware that different packaging would reduce the risk of intentional and unintentional overdose. Meanwhile, some doctors over-prescribe medications either through mistake or because it is simpler to treat patients with medication than with safer alternatives.
If your or a loved one suffered an injury as a result of over-prescription on improper prescription of medications, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Lopez McHugh attorneys are experienced in handling related lawsuits from the over prescription or improper prescription of medications. Contact a medical negligence attorney today at (877) 737-8525 or fill out a contact form on our website for a free initial consultation.