Prescription Drug Addiction and Drug Abuse Deaths Now Exceed Traffic Accident Fatalities

Prescription Drug Addiction and Drug Abuse Deaths Now Exceed Traffic Accident Fatalities

What are supposed to be medicine - the products from pharmaceutical companies - are killing more people in America than cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and all other "street" drugs, combined. And prescription drug addiction now exceeds street drug addiction among younger Americans. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), overdoses of prescription and illicit drugs have surpassed drunk driving to become the nation's leading cause of unintentional death. In 2006 alone, an estimated 24,000 people died from accidental drug-related causes - a 100 percent increase since 2000. And prescription narcotic pain killers such as oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone are the number one contributor to the rapid increase in drug overdose deaths, says NSC President & CEO Janet Froetscher.

A 2005 study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says drug overdoses have surpassed drunken driving as the single largest cause of unintentional injury death in America. The CDC reported that 50 percent of the 22,400 fatal drug overdoses in 2005 were from prescription and over-the-counter medications, whereas 39 percent were from all other illegal drugs and the balance of 11 percent from unknown drugs. And another survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reports that 10.8 million people age 18 and older used a prescription pain medicine for non-medical purposes within the past year.

The NSC's Froetscher points out that the role of the Safety Council must change focus and expand to include drug safety and, in particular, prescription drug addiction and abuse, as targets, along with the traditional workplace and motor vehicle safety areas. "We will advocate for additional resources to be directed to research to better understand the problem," Froetscher said. "We also will bring together government, the private sector, nonprofits and other involved parties to develop strategies to address it," she added.

Clearly, with prescription drug addiction and abuse out of control in this country, contributing to so much crime, misery and ruined lives, everyone has a stake in seeing the problem brought under control. And there is something that everyone can do to help. First, there's scarcely a home in America that doesn't have at least one prescription or powerful over-the-counter medication sitting in a medicine cabinet or out in plain view on a counter or bedside table. And chances are that the drugs are potentially harmful in the hands of kids or young adults looking for a cheap thrill.

By putting these drugs out of sight, safely hidden or locked up, the number one source of drugs in America - the number one source of prescription drug addiction among our youth - will be less tempting and less available. And the other thing we can do is talk to our kids openly and frankly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and in particular prescription drug addiction and abuse. Kids have to be educated about it, and parents are the ones who can do it best. Meanwhile, if you or anyone you know is abusing prescription drugs or suffering from prescription drug addiction, encourage that person to speak to an experienced medical drug detox counselor, and help them begin to recover their life.

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