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Are You At Risk For An Accidental Drug Overdose?

Posted Apr 01 2009 2:53pm

Could you or someone you love be at risk for a fatal medication error? It’s more common than you may think. [cross-posted at BlogHerHealth and Wellness ]

A new study shows that (in home) accidental overdoses are on the rise. Most recently, the death of actor Heath Ledger, has been in the news. But, this isn’t a problem confined to Hollywood…

Almost 50 million death certificates were filed in the United States between Jan. 1, 1983, and Dec. 31, 2004, 224,355 of them involving fatal medication errors (FMEs). After examining all of these documents, the authors discovered that the overall death rate from fatal medical errors increased by 360.5 percent during that time period.

Overall, the increase in FMEs was particularly pronounced among people aged 40 to 59, where the increase was 890.8 percent.

Even if you don’t read any other part of this post, please read this…

In researching for this post, I came across a Drug Interaction Tool (at Annie’s Annals ) that could save your life. All you need to do, is list the medications you are taking, and this tool will list any possible interaction.

Even if all of your prescription medications have no interactions, bookmark and save this link for anytime you are considering taking an over-the-counter medication (or something previously prescribed). This tool will reveal any possible interactions between your medications, from mild to severe. It will also give you a detailed explanation as to what type of interactions could be caused, and why.

* Don’t stop taking medications that have been prescribed to you without first discussing it with your doctor…The benefit of the medication could far outweigh the risk of interaction, and only your doctor can tell you this for sure.

This is from Amanda Gardner for HealthDay

According to background information in the paper, published in the July 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, there has recently been a dramatic shift in fatal overdoses away from inpatient settings to outpatient settings. More and more medications are taken outside of the hospital or clinic, with far less oversight from health-care professionals, the researchers said.

At the same time, more medications that once were available only by prescription are now bought over-the-counter, and more people are taking more than one medication.

All of this makes it easier for individuals to combine medications with alcohol and/or street drugs. But despite this shift, few if any studies have looked at drug errors outside clinical settings.

From Sarah Carl at GlamFit

Awareness of this unfortunate trend can help educate the public about how to properly medicate. Many people think that overdoses occur when a desperate individual swallows a handful of pills with the intention of doing harm to themselves. but this is no longer the sole case. Mixing prescribed doses of just two medications can yield disastrous results.

But hopefully, this report and articles about it will bring to light the seriousness with which people should take their meds — even the ones they consider safe for “every day” conditions. And hopefully greater awareness will bring home the fact that there’s a reason doctors advise you to take your medication as prescribed.

Accidental overdoses soar over 360%

The researchers conclude that medication education must also include home use of prescription drugs.

“Dark Knight” star Heath Ledger died from a combination of sleeping pills, painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs on January 22, 2008. A toxicology report found acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone and hydrocodone (painkillers), diazepam (Valium, anti-anxiety), temazepam (sleeping pill), alprazolam (Xanax, anti-anxiety), and doxylamine (antihistamine).

Ledger was said to be suffering from insomnia since his Joker role in “Dark Knight” as well as general anxiety.

From MotherWarriors

One simple thing parents can do is to clean out their medicine cabinets and get rid of pain killers prescribed for an operation or particular condition that are no longer used. Those that are being used should be locked up. We lock up toxic substances when our kids are little and it’s still important to keep dangerous substances away from kids even when they’re old enough to know better. It doesn’t really cost anything. It’s just an exercise in patience, which is what being a parent is about a lot of the time.

Many children are also abusing over-the-counter cough medication

Over the years, teens discovered that they still could get high by taking large doses of any OTC medicine containing dextromethorphan (also called DXM). Dextromethorphan-containing products — tablets, capsules, gel caps, lozenges, and syrups — are labeled DM, cough suppressant, or Tuss (or contain “tuss” in the title).

Medicines containing dextromethorphan are easy to find, affordable for cash-strapped teens, and perfectly legal. Getting access to the dangerous drug is often as easy as walking into the local drugstore with a few dollars or raiding the family medicine cabinet. And because it’s found in over-the-counter medicines, many teens naively assume that DXM can’t be dangerous.

You can learn more about how to stop teen cough medicine abuse at Five Moms and also at Kids Health.

We are five moms—a pediatric nurse practitioner, an accountant, a D.A.R.E. officer, an educator, and an author—from different backgrounds and from all over the country. We’ve come together with a common concern: teenagers abusing cough medicine to get high. We worry not only about our own kids, but about those of our friends and neighbors, too.

So when the Consumer Healthcare Products Association asked us to spread the word to parents, we stepped forward. The idea is a simple one. We will each tell five more moms about this nationwide problem, and they will tell another five, and another five beyond that. Soon, we hope to reach every parent in America with this message: that we must work together to educate our teens about the dangers of cough medicine abuse.

So…Are you or someone in your family at risk for having a fatal medication error? Awareness is the first step in prevention.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
at, The Political Voices of Women, Care2 Election

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