Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deaths from overdoses of prescription drugs exploding in rural U.S., especially in West Virginia

"Prescription painkillers account for most fatal overdoses from legal drugs in West Virginia and contribute to an exploding problem of overdoses across the United States that is most pronounced in rural areas, U.S. government researchers said on Tuesday," writes Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters. The study points out that in 63 percent of those overdoses the victim had not been prescribed the medication.

Overdose rates in rural areas have been on a dramatic rise in the last decade. In West Virginia, one of the few primarily rural states, overdose rates rose 550 percent between 1999 and 2004. "Now in the United States, drug overdoses are the second-leading cause of unintended deaths behind motor-vehicle deaths," adds Steenhuysen. Methadone, which is increasingly being used to treat pain, accounted for 40 percent of the overdose deaths.

Researchers hope the study will help public health officials understand the role of prescription drugs in fatal overdoses and encourage doctors to administer drugs in a responsible manner.(Read more) Click here for a full version of the study.

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