Both accidental and intentional prescription drug overdoses are on the rise in the United States, according to a study conducted by researchers from West Virginia University.
“People have seen the headlines related to Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith and they think that’s tragic but maybe contained to Hollywood,” researcher Jeffrey H. Coben said. “But the fact of the matter is we are seeing, across the country, very significant increases in serious overdoses associated with these prescription drugs.”
The researchers reviewed medical records on drug-related hospitalization in the U.S. Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which contains information on more than eight million patients. They found that between 1999 and 2006, the number of people hospitalized for overdoses of opioid painkillers, sedatives and tranquilizers increased by 65 percent, from 43,000 to 71,000. This was nearly twice the increase seen in poisonings by other drugs.
The most common victims of both intentional and unintentional opiate, sedative and tranquilizer overdose were women between the ages of 35 and 54 living in urban areas.