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Sometimes it begins with a phone call. You are in shock, confused. She was so young. What is methadone? Why was he on pain pills? What is fentanyl? How did he die of an overdose when the drug was prescribed by a physician? Like others, you start to Google, and you have found yourself here. Welcome to 
Death Rate from Prescription Drug Overdoses Rising
Unfortunately, the rate of death from drug overdoses is rising in the U.S., and the death rate from prescribed drugs is rising too. 
From 1999-2004, unintentional fatal drug overdoses nearly doubled and were the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States by 2004, behind only automobile crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. By 2016, the rate had tripled.

Deaths from accidental overdoses have increased to 19,838 in 2004 to 63,600 in 2016.


Medications work in the body in different ways. Some drugs are cardiotoxic or poisons to the heart, and some drugs affect the central nervous system and decrease respiratory drive, or the brain’s signals to the lungs to breathe. When a person has a cardiac or heart-related death from a drug overdose, it often happens suddenly.  Cardiac arrhythmias can sometimes cause the heart to stop as a result of drug overdose.  When a person dies of respiratory depression, family members may see a pattern of drowsiness, lethargy, snoring, slowed heart rate and slowed breathing.  People who die of respiratory depression have been reported to have been breathing slowly, or snoring loudly in the hours before they were found dead. 

If the person died of a drug overdose from a drug prescribed by a doctor, the person may have died because the doctor did something wrong.  Doctors have a responsibility to take a complete history of the patient, learn what medications the person has used in the past, and what current medications the patient is taking. Doctors have a responsibility to prescribe the right medication for the patient’s condition. Doctors also have a responsibility to prescribe the right dose for the patient and to monitor the patient to make sure the patient does not get too much medication. Failure to do these things may result in a patient’s death.   



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