Seven-fold increase in NYC deaths from prescription pain killers, study finds
The rate of NYC drug overdose deaths from pain-relieving opioids increased seven fold between the years of 1990 and 2006, a new study has found.
While prescription opioids also include methadone, the surge in deaths was driven almost exclusively by prescription "analgesics," or pain killers, such as oxycodones (marketed under such names as OxyContin or Percocet) and hydrocodones (Norco, Vicodin) and other such drugs, concluded researchers for Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Whites were much more likely to overdose on prescription analgesics than were blacks or Hispanics, according to the data the researchers obtained from the Office of the Medical Examiner in NYC.
"A possible reason for the concentration of fatalities among whites is that this group is more likely to have access to a doctor who can write prescriptions," said Magdalena Cerda, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of epidemiology. "However, more often than not, those who get addicted have begun using the drug through illicit channels rather than through a prescription."
To curb the problem, the authors recommended that the aggressive marketing of powerful pain killers be curbed, that sales of the drugs be more strictly regulated, and that physicians and patients receive more education about the risks of the drugs.