Why Are There So Many Prescription Drug Deaths?

Prescription drug regulations need to be changed.  As you all may know, Prince died at age 57 and prescription drugs have been linked to his deaths.  Here are some other celebrities you may know of that have died because of prescription medications.

1. Greg Giraldo (2010): He was a comedian on Comedy Central and died from a prescription overdose at age 44.

2. Brittany Murphy 2009): Originally it was stated that she died of pneumonia but later is was show that a combination of vicoprofen and over the counter drugs were mixed leading to her death.

3. Heath Ledger (2008): He overdosed on painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication as well as other prescribed drugs.

4. Anna Nicole Smith (2007): Died of “combined drug intoxication”.  She was taking chloral hydrate and methadone for pain.

5. Keith Moon drummer for the Who (1978): Died from a sedative.

6. Judy Garland (1969): Overdosed on barbiturates.  Her death was ruled accidental but some say it was a suicide.

7. Dorothy Dandridge (1965): She was best known for her role on “Carmen Jones”.  She died at age 42 from an overdose of Imipramine, an anti-depressant.

8. Marilyn Monroe (1962): Barbituate poisoning.  This may have been self induced but she had a history of over medicating as well and there was no monitoring what she was given by the doctor.

9. Whitney Houston: Drowned in the bathtub but drugs were found in her system and may have been the cause of falling asleep while bathing.

10. Prince (2016): Opioid overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid deaths have quadrupled since 1999 and so have the sales of opioid drugs.  From 1999 to 2014, 165,000 people have died in the US from overdoses from prescribed opioid medications.  If you are not sure what an opioid drug is, the most common are:

1. Methadone

2. Oxycodone (OxyCotin)

3. Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Overdose rates were highest among adults from 25 years old to 54 years old.

Who is monitoring what people are taking?

In California, West’s Annotated Health and Safety California Codes section 2 (2014) states:

All prescriptions of controlled substances dispensed pursuant this code shall be reported by the dispensing pharmacy to the Department of Justice.

So how does overdosing happen?

One reason is simple.  Over prescribing of medications.    Average americans from age 19 to 64 years old take an average of 11 prescription drugs.  This is data from the Kaiser Health Foundation.  Young kids to seniors are on drug regimens.  Children ages 0-18 take almost 4 prescriptions each year.  Some seniors take more than 31 prescriptions per year.  That is a lot of drugs.

  • Another reason is that people can get pharmaceuticals in other places as well and take them without a a medical doctor or pharmacist knowing.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there are several other avenues people take for getting prescription drugs:
  • 0.3%: Bought on the internet
  • 1.9%: More than one doctor
  • 2.2%: Other
  • 3.9%: Drug dealer or stranger
  • 16.6% Bought/took from friend or relative
  • 18.1%: One doctor
  • 54.2%: FREE from friend or relative

Now, monitoring drugs that are not prescribed will be hard to do, however, when drugs are prescribed, someone has to be responsible for how many pills and what pills are taken together for each patient.  This is not being monitored well enough and many cases of death that are “unknown” are probably related to drugs.

We need to get better tracking systems in place and educate people on how serious it is to mix drugs on their own or what the risks are for long term drug reliance.  The only way that these mandates will happen is if people start to get educated on the effects of drugs and put some pressure on our politicians.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/popping-pills-prescription-drug-abuse-in-america

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/02/new-study-finds-doctors-are-massively-overprescribing-drugs.aspx