Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times.

The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

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Follow Prescription Advisory

Although relieving pain and reducing suffering are primary emergency physician responsibilities, there is a concurrent duty to limit the personal and societal harm that can result from prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Pain Management / Clinical PolicyACEP Annals of Emergency Medicine 525, October 2012

The AAOS recommends the following tools, which have been shown to significantly reduce medication errors:

  • computerized physician order entry
  • computerized decision support systems
  • computerized monitoring of adverse drug events
  • pharmacist-assisted rounds
  • high-risk drug protocols

Overdose deaths are “just the tip of the iceberg”: that for every death there are many more hospital treatment admissions, emergency room visits, people who abuse or are dependent on prescription drugs and nonmedical users.

American Psychological Association
Prescription Advisory Systems & Technology

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