Every 14 minutes, someone dies from drugs, according to a recent examination of government data by the LA Times. What’s worse is that attempts by experts to reverse this trend don’t seem to be working. Drug deaths, fueled by prescription pain and anxiety drugs, now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States,
This is the first time since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979 that drugs have killed more people than cars. Most cases of preventable death are declining. Drugs, however, are the exception.
While teens and young people often abuse drugs, even, according to the mother one teen who died of an overdose, attending parties where pills are poured into a bowl and taken without knowledge of what they are taking, now people of all ages are suffering from drug-induced deaths.
Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, yet the death toll is highest among people in their 40s, according to data from The Centers for Disease Control.
Another surprising find is that prescription drugs kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. The commonly abused drugs include OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, Soma and Fentanyl, which comes in the form of patches and lollipops. People are taking the drugs from medicine cabinets, and they are buying them from drug dealers.
“People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Opferman told the paper. “Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn’t have the same stigma as using street narcotics.”
Traffic accidents have been the number one killer of teens for awhile, but huge investments in auto safety are working. Traffic fatalities have dropped by more than a third since the early 1970s. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that state-run prescription drug-monitoring programs and other attempts to reduce drug use don’t appear to be having a noticeable effect.
The Times also spoke to Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School who is studying ways to lower the risk of prescription drugs, about the implications of the widespread drug abuse.
“What’s really scary is we don’t know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths,” she told them.
JJIE has resources about youth and drugs and alcohol.