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Painkiller Nation: How America’s obsession with painkiller’s is leading to injury

Recently, more attention has been paid to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Deaths from drug overdoses have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have now become the leading cause of death by injury in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even more startling is the fact that the most common types of drugs in these overdose deaths are not illegal street drugs like heroin or crack, but pharmaceutical painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, and anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax. 

In 2011, 1.4 million Emergency Room visits involved the recreational use of these drugs, alone or in combination. In children under six years old, drugs like these account for approximately 40 percent of all exposures reported to poison centers; nine out of 10 poisoning deaths in all ages are due to drugs (misuse, and unintentional drug interactions from use).

Some Contributing Factors to America’s High Drug Overdose Rate

Your Denver personal injury attorney points out that one factor contributing to these troubling statistics is that doctors have not reached a consensus on the appropriate use of or guidelines for the role of prescription pain medications. A patient can receive different treatment from different doctors, which can have dangerous results when dealing with pain medications. A patient staying on medication too long can become tolerant and/or addicted; a patient switched to different medication could experience bad side effects or potentially lethal drug interactions. Another contributing factor is, of course, the street sale and illegal use of these prescription drugs.

How These Drugs Can Cause Injury 

 The injury caused by the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs is not only that of overdose deaths. The impairment caused by the habitual use of these drugs extends to many areas of life. In a previous blog, your Denver personal injury attorney discussed the accidents resulting from driving while impaired by prescription drugs. Even if legally prescribed–and even if properly taken–some prescription painkillers impair one’s vision, reflexes, or mental processes to such a point that driving is not advisable. If illegally obtained and/or improperly taken, driving under the influence of prescription drugs can be like driving under the influence of alcohol: deadly and dangerous.

The abuse of prescription medications can also impair one’s judgment, memory and parenting skills, leading to child abuse and neglect. For example, in the case of apparent accidental suffocation, the parents brought their baby into their bed to sleep between them, only to wake later in the night to find the baby not breathing. The parents tested positive for prescription painkillers and Xanax. In other cases, not responding to children when needed, or not responding appropriately are common consequences associated with prescription drug abuse by parents.

Your Denver personal injury attorney knows that many people begin taking prescription medications for entirely legitimate reasons; e.g. recovery from surgery or a painful injury. Unfortunately, the use of these drugs may not be monitored as closely as it needs to be, and/or the recovery process takes longer than expected, sometimes leading to dependence on pain medicine. Dependence, in turn, too often leads to abuse. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction to prescription pain medicine, get them help before any of the above injuries happen. If you or someone you know has already suffered an injury, talk with Jordan Levine of The Levine Law Firm about your legal remedies for that injury, and for failure to prescribe and monitor such medication properly.

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