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Prescription Drugs More Dangerous than Illicit Drugs, Alcohol and Firearms

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Reports looking at drug-related emergency room visits in 2008 show that prescription drugs have become more dangerous than ever. In fact, prescription medications, even when prescribed as directed, are responsible for more emergency room visits than illicit drugs, alcohol or firearms.

Drug-Related Injuries

According to Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), 2008 saw more than 118 million emergency room visits in the U.S. DAWN’s analysis of emergency room records shows that more than 4.3 million (4,383,494) visits stemmed from some form of drug use, whether related to medicine, drug abuse or drug misuse. This number is up over a staggering 70 percent from 2004[1]. The increase applied to all types of drug-related emergency room visits including injuries from prescription medications.

Adverse Reactions to Drugs

Of those 4,383,494 drug-related visits, 1,999,861 resulted from drug misuse or abuse. The remaining 2,383,633 came from legal medical use of prescription and over the counter drugs. These statistics show the staggering number of drug injuries occurring in the United States. Alcohol related emergency room visits were 656,892. Although statistics are not available for emergency room visits from firearms in 2008, the country saw 69,863 emergency room visits in 2007.

Why Prescription Drugs are More Dangerous

Another study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at drug-related deaths, indicating, “In 2007, drug-induced deaths were more common than alcohol-induced or firearm-related deaths in the United States.” [2] The report mentions a turning point occurring around 2002. “This change occurred as prescription drugs, especially prescription opioid painkillers and psychotherapeutic drugs, were prescribed more widely by physicians.”

Adverse Drug Events

According to a report by VA Center for Medication Safety and VHA Pharmacy Benefits Management Strategic Healthcare Group and the Medical Advisory Panel,[3] “Medication errors are more common than adverse drug events, but result in harm less than 1% of the time.” An “adverse drug event” is a negative and unintended injury to a patient caused directly by a drug, even when taken at the proper dosage. Approximately 25% of adverse drug events stem from medication errors. The remaining visits come from drug-related injuries.

Injured Patients Must Take Action

This surge in prescriptions has created an increase in drug-related injuries from prescription drugs. These injuries now outnumber those from street drugs and firearms. If the government and injured patients continue to give pharmaceutical companies free reign in producing dangerous drugs, the problem will only worsen. Injured patients should not shrug off injuries from defective drugs, lest another person suffer the same injury or worse.

Contact Us

If you or someone you love is suffering from an injury brought on by a prescription medication or a defective medical device, contact our office. Our experience attorneys will be more than happy to review your case, free of charge. We will answer your questions and make sure you understand all of your rights and options.


[1]http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/DAWN/2K8/ED/DAWN2k8ED.pdf
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6001a12.htm
[3] http://www.pbm.va.gov/vamedsafe/Adverse%20Drug%20Reaction.pdf

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