Safety Council Raises Alarm Over Increase in Prescription Opioid Overdoses

"As a society we have not heeded the data warning us of the deadly cost of addiction. Our grace period is over," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

The National Safety Council is calling on lawmakers, doctors, and the public to take immediate action to help curb the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history after new data showed opioid painkiller overdoses in 2014 jumped to an all-time high. Between 2010 and 2013, an average of 16,453 people died each year from prescription overdoses.

Last year, 18,893 people overdosed on medicines that include Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin. This surge has led to overdoses becoming the leading cause of unintentional death among American adults, the first time since World War II that position has been occupied by something other than car crashes.

"Prescription opioids have been a flashing red light for years, but as a society we have not heeded the data warning us of the deadly cost of addiction," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "Our grace period is over. If we do not act quickly and deliberately, we will lose more people to preventable overdoses. Nothing is more tragic than that."

The council recommends the following: implementation of prescribing guidelines for physicians who are treating patients with chronic pain; DEA-required education and additional training for medical practitioners who prescribed opioids; legislation that makes naloxone, an overdose antidote, widely available; and accessible and affordable treatment.

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