Increasing steadily from the 1990s, the largest killers were the narcotic drugs, prescription narcotic pain killers, cocaine and heroin. These drugs accounted for nearly half of the deaths in this particular study. Poisoning deaths, of which drug poisoning accounts for about 95%, now run behind only auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental injury death in the US.
The demographics are also interesting. Drug overdose deaths are twice as common in men as in women meaning about 2/3 of these deaths. The highest rates are in the age group between 35 and 54 years of age, accounting for about 60% of all the poisoning deaths in the year 2004. The study also found the rates among white people rising much faster than in blacks while rates among Hispanics went up much less than among non-Hispanics. Among American Indian Alaska Natives the overdose death rate rose more than 50%.
Of all the drugs mentioned in the report, the greatest increase was in the category of psychotherapeutic drugs. The increase there was a whopping 84%.
According to Janet Froetscher, the president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in 2006, about 24,000 people died in the U.S. from accidental drug overdoses. That is a 100% increase from 2000. She said the biggest increases are in men and women between 20 and 64 years of age and are mainly due to abusing prescription pain medicines such as oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and buprenorphine. Prescription opioids was the largest group of drugs among the killers, followed by cocaine and heroin and other illicit drugs.
And these are usually not your stereotypical drug addicts. Men and women, with regular jobs and families, living otherwise normal lives are often hiding the fact that they are dependent on prescription pain killers. Sometimes, after it finally comes to the attention of the attending physician that too many prescriptions are being filled, the supply is cut off, and the abuser turns to illegal drug sources. This usually means heroin or methadone from the street, or, the same pills as before with much higher price tags.
When drug use becomes abuse, the dangers of addiction are not the only concerns, but it is true that addiction multiplies the chances of all other complications which might result from the use of these substances. When use becomes daily use, the warning signals should be going off like a church bell.
Overdoses from these and many other drugs seldom occur in situations without any warnings. Letting these problems persist only increases the risk of overdose or other deadly complication. If you or a loved one is going through this ordeal, don’t wait, seek professional help and detox rehab.