Too Many Painkillers?

United States data for 2009 showed that more individuals died from unintentional drug overdoses (37,485) than from motor vehicle crashes (36,284). These casualties included individuals with histories of extensive drug use as well as drug-naïve experimenters, partly because overdoses are often "mixed," and anyone consuming a combination of sedating substances, such as alcohol plus medications originally prescribed for pain, sleep, or anxiety, can't predict their maximum effect or the timing of it. The rise in overdose deaths is linked to increases in availability and misuse of prescription opioid pain medications (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone), which caused more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined Prescription opioids became more available because societal expectations of physicians and other practitioners altered opioid prescribing patterns. In the past, medicines such as morphine were used sparingly, mostly for treatment of brief pain, like after major surgery. Opioids were also used to relieve pain...

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