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Drug Overdoses and Mortality Rates

Death rates are on the rise for young white adults between the ages of 25 and 34, according to a recent article in The New York Times. What’s the cause? In short, drug overdoses appear to be the reason for so many deaths. And as the article notes, “the rising death rates for those young white adults . . . make them the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it.” What can we do to prevent drug overdose deaths? And who is to blame when a young adult fatally overdoses on a prescription medication?

CDC Records Demonstrate Rise in Deaths for Young White Americans

As the article points out, the recent rise in death rates for young white Americans is at a level we have not seen in more than two decades (following the end of the AIDS epidemic), and it comes at a time when death rates are falling among other groups (such as young black Americans). This information is based on data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from about 60 million death certificates issued between 1990 and 2014.

But it is not simply all white Americans in this age group that appear to be at risk. Based on the data contained in the death certificates, the death rate has risen much faster for the “less educated.” To be sure, there was a 23 percent rise in deaths rate for white Americans aged 25-34 who did not have a high school education, while records showed only a 4 percent rise for those who had a college degree.

But by and large, the deaths connected to drug overdoses were what stood out. According to the article, “in 2014, the overdose death rate for whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999, and the rate for 35- to 44-year-old whites tripled during that period.” Instances of fatal drug overdoses certainly are not limited to illegal drugs. To be sure, these numbers include overdoses from prescription medications.

Drug Overdoses and Accidental Poisonings

In some cases fatal drug overdoses are identified as suicides. However, numerous drug overdoses each year are also tied to accidental poisonings. In other words, the patient on a particular medication does not know that she is taking or has taken a lethal combination of drugs. How do accidental poisonings happen?

Certain cases of accidental poisonings involve, as the article suggests, patient misuse of narcotic drugs. For example, a patient may be prescribed a specific medication that cannot be taken with alcohol, and despite the patient’s understanding of the risk, she decides to drink while using the drug to fatal results. In other situations, however, accidental poisonings can occur when a prescribing physician or a pharmacist does not sufficiently examine a patient’s medical history for potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney

If someone you love died of a prescription drug overdose, you may be able to file a claim for compensation. You should speak with an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your options. Contact Cohen, Placitella, & Roth, PC for more information.

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