“Psychiatric Medications Kill More Americans than Heroin”

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“In 2014, 10,574 people died of heroin overdose while 15,778 died from an overdose of psychiatric medications, nearly 50% more,” writes addiction specialist Kenneth Anderson. “What account for this high overdose death rate for users of psychiatric medications and for the steep climb in death rates over the past 15 years?”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I absolutely agree, the public needs to be forewarned of the number of deaths due to psychiatric drugs, since it’s appalling. The medical community should be ashamed of itself.

    As to, “the number of prescriptions for psychiatric medications (i. e. sedatives, antidepressants, psychostimulants, and antipsychotics) increased 117% between 1999 and 2013, from 197,247,557 prescriptions in 1999 to 427,837,506 prescriptions in 2013.” This may just be a typo, but this is an increase of 217%, not 117%.

    But I absolutely agree, “when over-prescribed or inappropriately prescribed they can lead to great harm and even death. What is needed is a major curtailment of polypharmacy, off-label prescribing, and non-specialist prescribing. The use of psychiatric drugs needs to be reduced to a mere fraction of current use rates and needs to be replaced or supplemented with appropriate psychosocial interventions which include not only therapy but such basics as housing, food security, and education. Money needs to be invested in social change rather than pill popping if we wish to create a healthy nation.”

    The more I research, the luckier I realize I am, that my doctors weren’t actually able to kill me to cover up a “bad fix” on a broken bone. My “bipolar” was caused by combining a NSAI, plus a SNRI and a synthetic opioid, the number two psych drug combination killer. And, of course, my doctors subsequently tried all the other deadly drug combinations, too.

    Medical doctors, who are paranoid of non-existent but potential legitimate malpractice suits, are truly the psychopathic and “dangerous paranoid schizophrenics,” that our society should be warning us about. It’s not those of us who were lied to and told doctors had all promised to “first and foremost do no harm,” and mistakenly trusted in medical doctors who are the danger to society. My former PCP’s husband was subsequently sued for killing another patient with an ankle problem. And another doctor of mine was arrested by the FBI for “snowing” and killing lots of patients, too.

    Today’s medical community has been given the power to murder anyone, for any reason. This is too much power to give any industry.

  2. Mark, thanks for the heads-up! I took a look at the tables in the article. The figures are from the Centers on Disease Control. What the author has found is this: 15,778 fatal overdoses INVOLVED a psychiatric medication. What really stands out? Most drug overdoses in the U.S. today — especially prescription drug overdoses — involve more than one drug. 90 – 95% of fatal OD’s involving a psychiatric drug were “multi-drug” cases.

    The big, fat, 800-Pound Gorilla in the room is prescription opioids like OxyContin, Norco, Opana, Percocet etc. Multi-drug OD’s involving these prescription drugs led to 3.72 deaths per 100,000 people; those involving heroin, 0.73. Since heroin is a drug of the same class, often used these days by people who can’t get enough pills, you can call that a combined 4.45 per 100,000.

    The second biggest Gorilla is Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan etc.). They were involved in OD’s that killed 4.55 people per 100,000. The biggest single multi-drug disaster – death from a combo of Benzos and Opioids – killed 1.72 people per 100,000. Benzos plus cocaine accounted for 0.24 deaths per 100,000. Multi-drug OD’s that did NOT involve any of the above accounted for just 0.69 deaths per 100,000.

    What do we make of this? First, one of the riskiest categories to be in is a person seeking care for both physical and emotional pain – or seeking care for physical pain, but judged by the doctor to have “psych issues.” The horrible epidemic of “pain-pill” addiction, overdose and death gripping many parts of this country is being made much worse by doctors dishing out psych meds on top of drugs for physical pain. Not to mention psychiatrists who dish out psych meds without even keeping track of the patient’s physical problems and the drugs s/he is taking for them.

  3. Wow — thanks. 48 million Xanax, plus 28 million Ativan and 14 million Valium. And I bet they left Klonopin off the list because it often gets classified as a seizure drug. Holy crap.

    Of all the “psych drugs”, benzodiazepines are by far and away the most dangerous in terms of overdoses. And are probably the most commonly given out by family doctors, pain clinics, etc. It’s ironic. Twenty years ago the SSRI’s were being pushed as “safe” because it was so hard to overdose on them–unlike those awful benzos. But now US doctors have completely forgotten about “benzo addiction” and give these pills out like candy, including to people who are also taking opiates. It’s deadly.

    • I believe the total figure for benzo prescriptions in 2013 was 94 million. JAMA, 2013, Jones et al. printed a study that indicated that at least 30% of all opiate overdose fatalities involve benzodiazepine drugs. I suspect that this figure is actually higher if toxic drug screens were performed on the many poor/working class deaths of unknown causes.

      At least 60% (or more) of opiate addicted/dependent people use benzos on a regular basis due to the fact that this drug cocktail greatly magnifies the overall drug “high.” This sets a deadly stage for a “perfect storm” of addiction where death always lurks very close by.

      I believe that the statistic listed above for heroin overdose deaths in 2014 in the U.S. is grossly underestimated. There was a documented 1200 plus deaths in 2014 in Massachusetts alone.

      My research tells me that at least 45 people die everyday from opiate/heroin overdoses. Given the close to one third involvement of benzos in those deaths, this indicates that benzos may kill a minimum of 15 people per day.

      Most opiate addicts know how to use their opiates but often forget the amount of benzos they also consumed in the same day. Benzodiazepines are (in my view) frequently the DECISIVE synergistic component in the deadly drug cocktail of opiates and benzos.

      The benzo crisis and its connection to the opiate overdose epidemic is one of Psychiatry’s greatest crimes, and I would argue that today it represents Psychiatry’s weakest link. We must take advantage of this opportunity for exposure and organized resistance that Psychiatry has gifted us.

      Richard

  4. I’d venture to guess it’s way up there in the top 3, at least, of causing death, one way or another. And those whom it does not kill, it disables. And those who have been through this and have survived have an extremely unique perspective to share that is really hard for some people to take in. It’s a mind-bender, no doubt.