Opioid abuse has been in the news of late, partially because of the FDA’s desire to mitigate the abuse of painkillers such as Oxycontin (sometimes referred to as “legal heroin”) and hydrocodone. In fact, according to a statement released by Janet Woodcock, MD and Director of Drug Evaluation and Research, the agency plans to submit a report to the Department of Health and Human Services advising that hydrocodone be reclassified, from its current Schedule III status to Schedule II, which would place more stringent controls on the drug.
An article published online by JAMA Psychiatry addresses the opioid problem, but suggests an additional way of reigning in abuse. The authors contend that non-suicide self-injury mortality, described as deaths due to accidental drug overdose are often classified by ER personnel and medical examiners as “undetermined.” Even the term “accidental” is a bit misleading, as it doesn’t address the fact that death was caused by unintentional self poisoning. In other words, the victims didn’t intend to kill themselves, but they did so by ingesting a prescription drug.
The statistics are alarming, according to the JAMA Psychiatry editorial, suicides have increased 20% since 2000 – deaths from non suicide intoxication have risen a whopping 140%.
To help mitigate the problem, the authors suggest that certain accidental drug overdoses should be entered into the National Violent Death Reporting System, a system that links reports from police, medical examiners, laboratories and coroners.
Additionally, they suggest better reporting on the part of jails and emergency room staff when it comes to drug abusers so that some sort of intervention can be put in place by those who have been admitted to the ER due to overdose or arrested on prescription drug abuse charges. They contend that financially, placing these individuals into treatment programs would ultimately cost the taxpayer less money than the societal costs wreaked by those who abuse drugs: incarceration, impaired productivity, and domestic violence.