Drug Overdose Deaths Have Tripled Over Past Three Decades

Drug Overdose Deaths Have Tripled Over Past Three Decades
June 23, 2014 Lighthouse Network

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl BenzioSays Prescription Drug Abuse and Rise of Heroin Play a Part in Tragedies

Philadelphia—New data shows that drug overdose deaths have increased 7 percent in just one year, and that deaths due to overdoses increased by double that rate in New Jersey and triple in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania in 2011, the most recent year data was available, drug-related deaths topped 2,000 people for the first time. Another 1,000 overdosed in New Jersey, and 41,000 people died nationwide that year.

The news is especially saddening for Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at Lighthouse Network (www.844LifeChange.org), an addiction and mental health counseling helpline based near Philadelphia but helping clients from all over the country.

“While heroin use has certainly skyrocketed, there is also a great danger in the abuse of prescription drugs,” Benzio said. “And, oftentimes, we hear about individuals who became addicted to a prescription after a surgery or injury, then turned to using heroin. It’s a frequent problem that touches people from all walks of life—of every age, every socio-economic status, and in both cities and suburbs.”

Nationally, drug overdose deaths, fueled mainly by prescription painkillers and more recently heroin, have tripled in the U.S. over the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Deaths from overdoses increased 102 percent from 1999 to 2010 alone.

According to a representative from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the stigma attached to drug addiction has stalled the development and investment in better treatment options. Federal spending on drug addiction research was $320 million for fiscal year 2013—about the same as in 2002, adjusted for inflation, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“The Association for Addiction Professionals tells us that, sadly, only about 5 to 10 percent of Americans addicted to prescription drugs or heroin actually receive treatment,” Benzio said. “This is a tragic fact, as there are faith-based treatment options that do yield results, and real life change can happen, if only a person who needs help seeks it.”

According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Every day in the United States, 105 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated daily in emergency rooms for the misuse or abuse of drugs. In 2011, about 2.5 million hospital visits resulted from drug misuse and abuse. Of these, more than 1.4 million were related to pharmaceuticals/prescription drugs. In 2010, 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were related to pharmaceuticals.

These facts are a wake-up call for parents, Benzio says. When prescription drugs are readily accessible in the home, it can be an open door for danger.

“Pain medication abuse is becoming more and more prevalent,” he said. “Parents must always be watchful and know where the temptations for experimentation lie in their home. It used to be kids started with cigarettes, then marijuana, then harder drugs. Now they find pain meds lying around, and the addiction cycle is off and running. So clean out the medicine cabinet after that wisdom tooth extraction, make sure the prescription for that back injury is no longer around. Grandparents, too, must be mindful of the pain medications that are within reach for their pre-teen and teenaged grandchildren. And we cannot shy away from confronting our kids when they may be struggling with drug addiction. We will not push them to an overdose, but instead we will save them from one.”

Drug abuse may seem overwhelming for those who have a friend or loved one struggling with an addition, but help is available. And, Benzio adds, the most effective help for long-term recovery is a BioPsychoSpiritual approach using biblically based, Christ-centered principles combined with sound medical and psychological science, so those being treated do not return to the addiction lifestyle.

Lighthouse Network offers a free, 24-hour helpline, 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242) for those who are struggling and for their family and friends. Lighthouse Network also provides online resources for those concerned about a friend or a loved one. Visit www.844LifeChange.org/im-family-a-friend.

Benzio shares insights on various mental health issues in the one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” airing on approximately 425 radio stations across the country, including 200 stations in the American Family Radio Network. The purpose of the “Life Change” program is to bring scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine some common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s obstacles and enjoy fulfilled lives. For more information on “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” visit www.844LifeChange.org/life-change-with-dr-karl/.

Lighthouse Network works to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

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