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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – Urgent federal measures are needed to combat preventable overdose deaths involving painkillers such as Oxycontin, according to an article, “Prevention of Fatal Opioid Overdose,” published in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Association and co-authored by Dr. Josiah “Jody” Rich, a researcher at The Miriam Hospital and a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Brown Medical School.
Every year, at least 16,000 Americans die of unintentional overdose involving painkillers, according to co-author Leo Beletsky, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.
“This epidemic kills more people than homicides and AIDS, but it doesn’t receive nearly the same level of recognition or resources,” said Beletsky, who is a drug policy expert and researcher on the relationship of law and public health.
Rich called for expanded tools and treatment to prevent overdoses. “Treatments for opioid addiction, which we know work, must expand in order to confront this growing epidemic. For those not ready for treatment, we need more tools to prevent overdoses,” Rich said.
Rhode Island is one of 16 states in which death from accidental overdose is more prevalent than death from car accidents. In 2008, such drug-related deaths claimed the lives of 193 Rhode Islanders – about four people each week, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network Mortality Report of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.