Preventing Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths

Preventing Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths

Pharmaceuticals are medicinal drugs that are supplied by a pharmacy or pharmacists. Most people refer to pharmaceutical drugs as prescriptions drugs. While all drugs, both prescription and illicit, have risk for overdose and overdose fatalities, pharmaceutical drugs account for more than half of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to 2010 national data. In fact, prescription pain relievers are involved in more U.S. overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the association of state and territorial health officials.

Why Are Pharmaceutical-Related Overdose Deaths Common?

While there are many prevention and awareness efforts regarding the use of illicit drugs, there has been little effort to warn the public about the risks and dangers of legal drug use. Many people assume that if a doctor prescribes a medication, the drug is “safe.” In reality, pharmaceutical drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.

The dangers of pharmaceutical drugs are underestimated because of the medicinal benefits these drugs provide, however these drugs are chemicals that have the power to impair proper functioning and cause a wide array of health complications that can result in death. Pharmaceutical overdose can occur if a person takes a quantity larger than prescribed or more frequent than prescribed or if a person misuses the drug, i.e. takes the drug while drinking alcohol, using the drug with other substances that cause a bad interaction or crushing pills to get high, staying awake while on sleep aids, etc. Every person responds differently to the chemicals of a prescription drug, which is why pharmacists are so specific when providing instructions for taking the medication.

How to Prevent Drug Overdose and Overdose Fatalities

Pharmaceutical overdose deaths are completely preventable, except for when the drug being used has been tampered with or not manufactured at legal requirements. Doctors and pharmacists prescribe scheduled doses to avoid overdose, tolerance-building, chemical dependency, and addiction.

At the first sign of a ‘bad reaction’ to a drug, a person should call their doctor, but there is no risk for overdose, even if a bad drug interaction occurs. The dosage amount prescribed by a doctor is well under the amount a person would need to take for overdose to be a threat. That being said, a person has to misuse or abuse a pharmaceutical drug to overdose.

Pharmaceutical misuse can refer to something as simple as using an antidepressant while using a benzodiazepine. It is imperative that the instructions that come along with a prescription drug are followed precisely. To deter people from recreational pharmaceutical use or abuse, better drug monitoring systems are being put into place and prevention and education programs are including pharmaceutical drugs as topics for awareness, instead of just illicit drugs. People at high-risk for pharmaceutical overdose or overdose death are elderly individuals using multiple prescription drugs, recreational drug users, addicts, and individuals with poor mental or physical health.

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