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The Surprising Second Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

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The Surprising Second Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

In a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers came to a surprising conclusion: hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription medication has increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2006. The rates of unintentional poisoning– from prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers in the U.S. has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death.

Simply put, this means that poisoning from prescription drugs is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S.

“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.”

Dr. Coben states that while the data shows a fast-growing problem, there’s an urgent need for more in-depth research on these hospitalizations. The study was able determine whether the poisonings were diagnosed as intentional, unintentional or undetermined. While the majority of hospitalized poisonings are classified as unintentional, notable increases were also shown for intentional overdoses associated with these drugs, most likely reflecting their widespread availability in community settings.

Next: Ten Common Medication Mistakes That Can Kill

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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1:07AM PST on Nov 20, 2012


9:31AM PST on Nov 17, 2012


9:08AM PST on Nov 17, 2012

yeah...and the elderly are most at risk since safety of so many drugs were never established for them

7:00PM PST on Nov 16, 2012

Been there, done that, and after a huge medical error, am glad I am here to attest this is the sad and all so real truth. Why would there be so many medical advocates, if all was, "well" ? Most of them have had a love one, loose their life or injured. In hope and justice in their name, they leave everything to try to make something good ,out of such a tragedy, trying to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else, by becoming patient advocates. It happens daily, not just in hospitals, but Drs offices ,and other outpatient practices. Until, it happens to you or a love one, and begin to learn how common this is, one would never believe it to be true. We are brought up to follow the
" Dr's Order's". DONT, unless you have 100 % trust in them, all your questions are answered, do your own research,and feel comfortable in any situation or decision. Always double check medical interactions, and ask the pharmacist. Many Dr's are so busy, they will write a RX, and have their next patient waiting, and too busy to do so. They end up entering it in their computer,too late to see a flag or allergy you may have to it. Pharmacists, should not be the first line of protection !! Sadly, the patient needs to be.

8:49PM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

There's a lot of gross stuff in the hospital, that's just a givenl. When I've been in a hospital, [excluding giving birth], I prefered the drugs over the other "stuff".

3:58PM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

This is a tad bit worrying

3:19PM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

They will raid your house and shoot you for simply using a non-toxic, non-addictive plant, but all's well as long as your corporate-approved drug of choice came by way of a prescription.

1:11PM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

Thanks for posting this for us.

3:43AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

If you want to stay healthy - and alive - stay as far away from doctors and hospitals as possible!

1:18AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

Interesting and truly sad, guess that's why I don't trust doctors. Thanks!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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