Poisoning is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. While several recent high-profile Hollywood celebrity cases have brought the problem to public attention, the rates of unintentional poisoning deaths have been on the rise for more than 15 years, and in fact, unintentional poisoning has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death among people 35-54 years of age.
In a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers in the U.S. have increased by 65% from 1999 to 2006.
“Deaths and hospitalizations associated with prescription drug misuse have reached epidemic proportions,” said the study’s lead author, Jeffrey H. Coben, MD, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “It is essential that health care providers, pharmacists, insurance providers, state and federal agencies, and the general public all work together to address this crisis. Prescription medications are just as powerful and dangerous as other notorious street drugs, and we need to ensure people are aware of these dangers and that treatment services are available for those with substance abuse problems.”