Sunday, May 1, 2011

Opioid-related Overdose Deaths Are a National Epidemic

A report on the increase in unintentional drug overdoses emphasizes the role of nonmedical opioid abuse, but also says physicians share some blame.

A recently released report authored by experts from the CDC, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and Duke University Medical Center shows that in 40% of US states, unintentional drug overdoses kill more people than motor vehicle accidents and suicides.

Calling this trend a “national epidemic,” the authors of the report, published on the website of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, wrote that one potential contributor to the dramatic increase in unintentional overdose deaths in the US in the last two decades is that “psychiatrists and many primary care physicians might not be familiar with existing evidence-based guidelines for opioid prescribing or with programs designed to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs such as state prescription drug monitoring programs.”

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine news release accompanying the publication of the report noted that prescription opioid pain medications “are driving this overdose epidemic,” with data showing that in 2007 “unintentional deaths due to prescription opioid pain killers were involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.”

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