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Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years

Prescription drug use in the nation has purportedly increased by several hundred percent in the past 10 years. According to recent statistics, one person dies every hour in this country from a prescription overdose. The biggest culprit is the abuse of prescription pain relievers. The problem is not confined to just one locale. Every state, including Maryland, has recorded deaths of patients from these medications.

One study concludes that physicians are some of the biggest contributors to the death rate. Many are said to over-prescribe medications. One figure suggests that there were enough orders written to ensure that every adult in the nation could have a bottle of the medications. One factor in the large number of prescriptions is the advent of for-profit clinics that readily supply the pills, regardless of the medical need.

The worst offending physicians and other medical providers seem to be located in the southern portion of the country, but it is certainly not confined to that region. One state has an average of 20 plus more prescriptions filled for an opioid-based pain reliever than a state further north. In addition to overdoses that are attributed to ingesting medications, many patients are believed to become addicted to heroin due to their use of the powerful pain relievers.

While there may be no easy solution to the prescription drug problem, a state-run database may enable care providers to see at one time which medications have been supplied to the patient. However, it is ultimately up to the physician to determine whether a patient requires a certain medication and the duration of treatment in order to lessen the risk of a death due to an overdose. Maryland patients who believe that they or a loved one have been harmed due to a medical professional's error are ensured the right to file a medical malpractice suit against the provider they believe responsible. Litigation against a provider deemed negligent may allow the victim to recover monetary damages incurred as a result of the harm inflicted.

Source: The Daily Beast, "Painkiller Overdoses Kill More Than One American Every Hour", Abby Haglage, July 1, 2014

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