measured dosage

Overdose deaths at epidemic levels

UNC-CHAPEL HILL/DUKE (US) — The number of teens and adults dying from accidental overdoses in 2007 surpassed motor vehicle crashes and suicides, two of the leading causes of injury death.

Driving the epidemic are prescription opioid medications, involved in about 36 percent of all poisoning suicides in the U.S. in 2007, and in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Opioids are synthetic versions of opium that are used to treat moderate and severe pain.

A new commentary, aimed at helping doctors control the problem, is published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Approximately 27,500 people died from unintentional drug overdoses in 2007. Put in perspective, the number is about 4.6 times as many deaths as all U.S. fatalities in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from the beginning of both wars through Feb 20, 2011.

Alternatively, the 2007 U.S. unintentional drug poisoning deaths would be equivalent to losing an airplane carrying 150 passengers and crew every day for six months.

The report is co-authored by Richard Weisler, adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University; Ashwin Patkar, associate professor in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Duke; and Leonard Paulozzi, medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC sounded alarms in several reports last year. In June 2010, for example, the agency announced that the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that 1 in 5 high school students in the U.S. have abused prescription drugs, including the opioid painkillers OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin.

And in June last year the CDC reported that visits to hospital emergency departments involving nonmedical use of prescription narcotic pain relievers has more than doubled, rising 111 percent, between 2004 and 2008.

Various reports cite key factors linked to the problem, including increased nonmedical use of opioids without a prescription “… solely for the feeling it causes” and that psychiatrists and primary care physicians may fail to anticipate among their patients the extent of overlap between chronic pain, mental illness, and  substance abuse.

More news from Duke University: www.dukenews.duke.edu

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Crossman

    A solution to this problem has been discovered but needs FDA approval before it can be made available to the public. Phoenix Pharmalabs, Inc. (PPL) has developed a novel family of opiate analgesics that appear to be non-addicting and free of all dangerous side effects – including respiratory depression (which is the primary cause of death from opiate overdose) as well as constipation (which is the secondary cause of death from overdose).

    Animal studies conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on PPL’s drugs demonstrated the following: robust analgesic potency (4x – 20x stronger than morphine); no signs of respiratory depression or death – even at 100x the analgesic dosage; no constipation; no physical dependence; little or no abuse potential and no dysphoria. The drugs are orally active and inexpensive to manufacture using PPL’s patented process.

    PPL is currently seeking a strategic alliance with a leading pharmaceutical company that has the resources and motivation to assist the company in moving these drugs through FDA clinical trials and taking them to market.

  2. emc2

    so teens should be illegally taking ppl’s new drugs instead of illegally taking existing drugs?

  3. Bill Crossman

    No, PPL does not provide these drugs to ANYONE. They are being given to animals to test for safety and efficacy before testing in human clinical trials. Besides, it is unlikely that teens or anyone else would be interested in taking them for recreational use since they do not create the euphoric “high” that other opiates do. That is why they are non-addicting.

  4. Maureen martin

    And what about the pain relief provided by cannabis that is without any overdose factor? Kids might get into mom or dad’s stash of cannabis medicine or recreational pot, but they will still be around and can be put on restriction instead of in a coffin. Where is the logic in anti cannabis laws except to keep good research from happening that advantages big Pharma and the private prison system well fed with bodies. Its all about the collateral losses and we are the collateral.

  5. Michael B

    Bill,

    do you have a reference for constipation deaths from opiate overdose?

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