Overdose Deaths Spike

Problem linked to patients sent home early with powerful prescriptions
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2008 8:35 AM CDT
Anna Nicole Smith, who died from a fatal overdose of a combination of prescription drugs. Such deaths have become increasingly common, according to a new study.    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
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(Newser) – The number of deaths caused by fatal combinations of prescription medications with alcohol or street drugs has exploded in recent years in part because patients are being released from hospitals early, according to researchers. Such deaths rocketed from 92 in 1983 to 3,792 in 2004, reports MSNBC.

“The increase is very, very steep compared with almost any other cause of death,” said the lead researcher. The numbers are a sign that patients are having trouble coping with truncated hospital stays, reduced clinical follow-up, and more powerful drugs, he said. "In an effort to save money, more of the burden of quality control has been placed on the shoulders of the patient,” he said.