Why Is Combating Prescription Drug Misuse Important?

Many people believe that prescription medications are safer than illegal drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor. However, when they are not used as directed, these medicines can be as dangerous as illegal drugs. In fact, overdose is a leading cause of unintentional injury death, second only to motor vehicle crashes in North Carolina. The majority of overdose deaths in North Carolina are medication-related, occurring when people misuse those medications. In 2014, more than 1000 North Carolinians died from unintentional overdose, and approximately 80% of those deaths were related to prescription drugs, mainly painkillers. Overdose deaths are just the tip of the iceberg, with 9.2 hospitalizations per overdose death, 16.8 emergency department admissions, and an unknown number of outpatient visits and medically unattended adverse events.