If you’re taking an opioid for pain relief, you know it comes with risks, including the worst one that you could die from an overdose. Data released in February by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control, found overdose deaths were up for the 11th straight year in 2010, the latest year for which data are available.
Of prescription drugs, opioid analgesics such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone are major drivers of the increase in mortality.
The CDC analyzed data showing that more than 38,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2010, up from just more than 37,000 the year before. Back in 1999, a comparatively low number of deaths 16,489 were from ODs, 4,000 of them from opioids. That number had risen to more than 16,000 by 2010.
Other medications involved in overdose deaths included antianxiety, antidepressant, and antipsychotic drugs.
The CDC reported that federal and local governments are taking steps to curb this trend, including better labeling of drugs, educating health care professionals and patients about prescription abuse, and administering drug monitoring programs a measure that can make it more difficult for chronic pain patients who desperately need relief to get the drugs they need.
To lower the risk that you or someone else can overdose on a pain medication, the CDC advises using it only as your health care provider directs; ensuring that no one else uses it (don’t share or sell the drugs); and storing your prescription in a secure place. If you think you might need help for a substance abuse problem, call (800) 662-HELP.
What do you think is driving the rise in painkiller abuse and overdose deaths?