A new study proves that opiod prescriptions contributed to overdose deaths. When a family member received opioids, people in the household were more likely to overdose. The study provides more evidence that overprescribing opioid medication helped lead to the current drug epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives.

The study, published by JAMA Internal Medicine, examined overdoses that resulted in ER visits or hospitalization. The Harvard researchers that led the study determined if a patient’s family members were previously prescribed opioids.

Overprescribed Opioids Often Fall Into The Wrong Hands

Disturbingly, when family members were previously prescribed opioids, opioid abusers were three times as likely to experience an overdose. Those overdoses resulted in hospitalization or an ER visit.  The more pills prescribed to a family member, the more likely the drug user was to overdose.

There is more than one interpretation of the study results. One idea is that the overprescription of opioid painkillers made the drugs far more accessible to people experimenting with drugs. The result was abuse, addiction, overdoses, and even death.

Another explanation emphasizes “root causes” of opioid abuse. People who become addicted are more likely to experience mental health problems or environmental factors, as well as a sense of hopelessness. These situations often lead to drug abuse.

Overprescription Caused Deaths

No matter which issues cause people to pick up their first drug, it’s agreed by researchers that overprescription played a central role in the opioid crisis. It also shows that not only patients became addicted to opioids. Family members often borrow, buy, and steal prescription drugs when an empty bottle sits on a shelf unused.

Since 1999, overprescription of drugs like Oxycontin have contributed to 700,000 drug overdose deaths. Most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs as well as street sales of those drugs. Many drug users move on to heroin and more powerful drugs like fentanyl when addiction takes hold of their lives.

The addiction epidemic now shows that more recent overdose deaths are caused by the introduction of fentanyl to the streets. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates out of 700,000 overdoses, fentanyl caused approximately 28,400 overdose deaths, and the numbers are expected to climb.