Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses drop
January 25, 2013
NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 25, 2013
Deaths from pain medication overdoses decreased between 2008-11, after increasing eightfold in the preceding decade.
The overdose death rate dropped 23 percent, and the number of deaths dropped from 512 in 2008 to 407 in 2011, state Department of Health officials reported Wednesday.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer, said in a statement. “While it’s encouraging that deaths have dropped, the death rate in 2011 was six times higher than in 1998. Health care providers play a critical role in prescribing medications and helping patients manage pain safely. Prescription pain medications are powerful drugs and must be handled carefully.”
Most prescription pain medications contain drugs known as opiates or opioids. The drugs cause effects similar to opium or morphine, and can be addictive.
In addition to morphine, opiates include codeine, oxycodone — brand names include OxyContin and Percocet — meperidine — Demerol is a brand name — and hydrocodone — brand names include Vicodin and Lortab.
Prescriptions for such medications have increased dramatically since the late 1990s, but misuse and abuse has also increased dramatically.
In recent years, the Department of Health created prevention tools to help health care providers and consumers — pain management rules for health care providers and the Prescription Monitoring Program, a secure online database to enable prescribers to see all of prescriptions for controlled substances a patient is receiving.