Las Vegas Plastic Surgery: Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey J. Roth
Las Vegas Plastic Surgery

By Dr. Jeffrey Roth

The miracles of modern medicine may come with a double edged sword. On one hand the medicines that doctors prescribe cure disease, save lives and relieve pain. On the other hand, they can cause tragedy and create pain from addiction and depression. In the United States today most of the major causes of preventable death are in decline. However deaths from drugs and prescription drug overdoses are an exception to this positive trend.

As a physician with a diverse client base at my Las Vegas Plastic Surgery practice, patients often ask me about the merits as all as the risks of prescription drugs. I created this post to spread awareness about some of the dangers involved with prescription drugs.

Prescription drugs Now Account For More than Deaths Than Traffic Accidents

According to a recent study, today is the first time since the federal government started tracking drug induced deaths in 1979 that  drug related deaths outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States. This is primarily due to an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses. Government data stated that there were at least 37,485 drug-related fatalities in 2009.
In the last decade the number of deaths from drugs overdoses has doubled and is responsible for one life lost every 14 minutes. In comparison, traffic accident fatalities have declined over the last ten years, largely because of improvements in auto safety with airbags and increased awareness about seat belts.

Unfortunately, the rise in drug related deaths is due to the widespread popularity of potent prescription pain and mental anxiety drugs. These prescription drugs are often highly addictive and can be very dangerous when combined with other mood altering substances or alcohol.

Pediatric Visits to Emergency Rooms Up Significantly in the Last Decade.

The Los Angeles Times reported that researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center looked at a database of more than half a million children 5 or younger who visited an emergency room due to possible poisoning by medication. The study found a 22% increase in children’s accidental drug exposures from the seven year period of 2001 to 2008. During this same time period the population of children only increased by 8%. In the decade earlier, similar child poisoning cases fell.

From 2001 to 2008, prescription drugs accounted for more than half of the children’s exposures. The drugs oxycodone, morphine and codeine, all extremely powerful narcotics,  were the drugs most frequently involved in children’s accidents. It’s unclear why poisoning rates among children are up. Some speculate that there are simply more drugs in residential homes these days. The rates of prescribing pain medications have definitely increased, which would explain why they are more available in our society.

During the 1980s and 1990 safeguards put in place to prevent children’s accidental exposure worked well, but this has since reversed. Today many adults request non child-proof pill caps, or put their medicines in weekly reminder pill holders. Sometimes children and grandchildren find these drugs and the consequences are almost always unfortunate.

Adolescents Find Easier Access and Cheaper Prices For Prescription Drugs

Today adolescents are more likely to get drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet than a drug dealer.  Prescription drugs are readily accessible, at no cost, pure, and effective when used correctly. Adolescents are more apt to use prescription drugs than ever before. Most of the rise seen in adolescent overdose has been attributed to prescription drugs like painkillers and anti anxiety drugs. Teens are often inclined to combine them with alcohol, a lethal combination that can often make side effects  much worse. The increase in prescription drug use among teens is also linked to fatalities from accidents. In fact, prescription drugs now account for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined in the United States.

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself From Risks

In families with children, parents and guardians should store drugs in locked cabinets. Medical bottles and packages should have child-proof lids attached to limit access and how fast a child can consume the medicine.

Monitor your medicine cabinets. Count how many pills you have, and make note of the date when you should expect to refill your prescriptions. Be aware that kids may obtain these drugs from medicine cabinets while visiting friends or family. Restrict the availability of these substances within your home.

Talk with your child about drug use. Help him or her understand that misused prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs. When used in combination with other substances, such as alcohol, prescription drug use can be fatal.

Please get rid of outdated medicines. Please throw away medicines that you do not need. There are organizations that will help you dispose old drugs safely and many police stations now have drop off boxes in front.

If you feel that you may be developing an addiction to a prescription drug, speak with your doctor and family about how you are feeling and get help.

Let us hope that with more awareness of this problem, we can enact methods to have the medicines we need without the tragedy they sometimes cause.

Jeffrey J. Roth, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Las Vegas Plastic Surgery

(702) 450-0777


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Fox News

Los Angeles Times

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