What Are the Most Common Drug Overdoses?

What Are the Most Common Drug Overdoses?

In a presentation to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that drug overdoses are now the second leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Other findings from the CDC include the following facts:

  • Mortality rates from unintentional drug overdose have risen steadily since the early 1970s
  • From 1995 to 2005, mortality rates were at their highest level to date
  • 2005 mortality rates were 4 to 5 times higher than the rates during the “black tar” heroin epidemic in the mid-1970s
  • 2005 mortality rates were more than twice what they were during the peak years of crack cocaine in the early 1990s
  • For the first time in documented history, more people in the 45-54 age group now die of drug overdoses than from traffic crashes

The increase from 1999 to 2004 was driven largely by opioid analgesics, with a smaller contribution from cocaine and essentially none from heroin. More recent data from the CDC show that overdose death rates in theUnited Stateshave more than tripled since 1990, and they have never been higher. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdose, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs.

Overdose and Opioid Analgesics

According to the CDC, opioid analgesics greatly contribute to the increase of overdoses, as noted by the following information:

  • The number of deaths from opioid analgesics increased from 2,900 in 1999 to at least 7,500 in 2004, an increase of 160% in just 5 years
  • By 2004, opioid painkiller deaths numbered more than the total of deaths involving heroin and cocaine

Opioid analgesics relieve pain by acting directly on the central nervous system, but this can also lead to unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, breathing problems and physical or mental dependence.

Among the drugs in this category are codeine, propoxyphene (Darvon), propoxyphene and acetaminophen (Darvocet N), meperidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine, oxycodone, oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet) and hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Lortab, Anexsia). For some, a new prescription is required for each new supply as federal regulations prohibit refills.

Overdose and Benzodiazepines

First introduced in 1960, benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotics that treat seizures, anxiety, alcohol withdrawals, insomnia, drug-associated agitation and as muscle relaxants. Many people also combine them with other medications for procedural sedation. People frequently use benzodiazepines in overdose, either alone or with other substances. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam).

Overdose and Cocaine, Heroin and Morphine

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), 2005 showed 448,481 emergency department visits involving cocaine. The 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 35.3 million Americans aged 12 and older used cocaine. According to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, cocaine is the second most common illegal drug in Europe. Furthermore, heroin and morphine accounted for 51% of all drug overdose deaths in theUnited Statesin 1999.

Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

Living through an overdose is a tremendous opportunity to seek the help you need to stop abusing drugs. Call our toll-free helpline today. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about drug addiction and detox programs. We are here to help.