North Carolina is currently experiencing an alarming increase in prescription overdose deaths, with both teens and adults falling victim to this unfortunate trend. Prescription drug abuse is a problem that has exploded over the last decade across the country.
No age, ethnic or socioeconomic group is exempt from the reach of this serious issue. All types of people are affected, and one of the most pressing issues is that of accidental overdoses. Prescription drug abuse leads to more overdose deaths than all illegal drugs combined. Teens are dying because of their prescription habits, and the state of North Carolina in particular is experiencing a tragic epidemic. Law enforcement and policy makers are scrambling to save lives and prevent these senseless accidents.
The Facts About North Carolina Prescription Drug Overdoses
News outlets and government agencies in the states are reporting on rising numbers of overdose deaths caused by prescription drugs in both adults and teens. Currently the most common reason for an accidental fatality in the state is a car accident. Prescription overdoses are a close second and are gaining on car accidents. If things keep going as they are now, overdose deaths will soon take the top spot. This is according to the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force. More than 1,000 residents of the state die every year from an accidental overdose, an increase of 300 percent over the last decade.
The statewide statistics show the most noticeable trend in overdose deaths among adults, but the same rise is being seen in the teenage population. Between 2000 and 2004 the average overdose total for teens in the state was nine. From 2005 to 2009 that average went up to 15 and is still climbing. Nearly all prescription overdose deaths in the state are related to opioid painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and others.
One particular region of the state has been hardest hit. In Northwest North Carolina and in the counties of the nearby Triad, the numbers of overdose deaths are among the highest. Statistics by county include deaths caused by any kind of substance abuse, but prescription-related deaths top the lists. Law enforcement agencies in these counties report that teens are abusing prescriptions at alarming rates.
Why Teens Turn To Prescription Drugs
The overall U.S. trend in increasing prescription opioid drug abuse can be blamed on increased access. In the early 2000s doctors began prescribing these painkillers with greater frequency in an effort to treat serious chronic pain. The consequences have been addiction and abuse in record numbers. Teens tend to abuse opioids because they have access to them. Teens report being able to get prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets of friends and family members.
Another reason for the epidemic of painkiller abuse is a misconception that prescription drugs are safe. Many teens think that because it can be prescribed by a doctor, a prescription drug must be safe to use or to abuse. They assume the drug is safer than using a street drug like heroin or meth. The assumption is wrong and has led to this surge in narcotic abuse and accidental deaths.
Preventing More Teen Drug-Overdose Deaths
There are several important ways in which the state of North Carolina hopes to turn the statistics around and save teen lives. These include a reporting system for abuse of controlled substances, programs for safely disposing of unwanted or expired prescription drugs, distribution of the overdose antidote to first responders and others as well as education and awareness programs. The latter may be one of the most important factors in saving lives. When teens better understand the consequences of prescription drug abuse, they will learn to make better choices.
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