As prescription drug abuse is on the rise, the Washington State Department of Health reports that overdoses have replaced car crashes as the leading cause of injury-related deaths. From 2003 to 2008, the rate of prescription overdoses and hospitalizations rose 90 percent.
The most prevalent drug overdose and death culprits appear to be Vicodin, Oxycontin and Methadone, all opiods. The overuse of Vicodin can lead to increased tolerance and addiction. One risk of Vicodin addiction includes liver toxicity, which increases for users without a tolerance to the drug. Oxycontin users may suffer from respiratory depression or arrest, skeletal-muscle flaccidity, blood-pressure and heart-rate reduction, coma and death.
As for Methadone, the FDA has issued a public health advisory warning that deaths and life-threatening side effects have been reported for both new users and those that switched to Methadone after being treated for pain with other strong narcotic pain relievers. The drug can cause slow or shallow breathing and change in heartbeat that may not be felt by the patient.
The trend of drug use has evolved since popular use of certain drugs each era – from LSD in the 1960s, heroin in the 1970s, crack cocaine in the 1980s, crystal meth in the 1990s to the current prescription drug abuse.
This year’s latest drug control strategy emphasizes anti-drug programs and encourages health care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in, marking a change in policy. The policy requires early detection of patient drug use and database tracking of physicians that overprescribe addictive painkillers.
Policy reform also allocates drug control budget funds to a 13 percent increase in spending on drug prevention programs. A 3.7 percent increase in addiction treatment was also approved for the budget.
The aim for policy reforms includes goals to reduce the rate of youth drug use and drug-induced deaths by 15 percent, and drug use among young adults by 10 percent. The administration also hopes to reduce the number of chronic drug users by 15 percent.