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Accidental deaths due to medication error increase dramatically as more drugs are consumed at home.

Bloomberg reported today that a University of California study documents a dramatic increase in accidental drug deaths over the past twenty years.  Fatalities increased from 3954 in 1983 to 22,770 in 2004. 

Accidental overdoses in the home were the most common cause of death resulting from medication error, with 8634 deaths occurring in 2004.  The overall increase in medication-related fatalities is fivefold from the 1980s, and consumption of alcohol along with medications is one contributing factor (17%). 

Researchers attributed much of this enormous increase in medication-related deaths to a 73 percent increase in prescriptions written since 1996, and the fact that many patients simply aren't up to the task of monitoring medications, dosages, interactions and warnings.  In the 45 to 54 age group, drug overdoses are more dangerous than car crashes.  One researcher noted that opioid painkiller use among working-age adults is a significant contributor to this increase.

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