Deadly combinations: medications, street drugs and alcohol

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

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Combining different types of drugs legal or illegal is dangerous and can be fatal. The deaths of Health Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and Michael are related to one of more drugs. All these died within the privacy of their homes. A 2008 study looked at US death certificates from 1983 to 2004 and looked at the causes of death. Home medication errors seem to account of large number of these deaths.

There are several types of medication errors, defined as:

  • Type 1 errors are those that come from combining medications with alcohol and/or street drugs, resulting in deaths at home.
  • Type 2 errors are those which do not involve alcohol or street drugs, again leading to deaths at home
  • Type 3 errors are those which involved alcohol and/or street drugs but death did not occur at home.
  • Type 4 errors are those that result in deaths outside the home and did not involve any alcohol or street drugs.

All 4 types of errors are on the rise but some more than the others. Type 1 error has increased by a whopping 3,196%, type 2 by 564%, type 3 by 555% and type 4 by 5% only. The results indicate that the combination of home setting and the use of alcohol and street drugs accounts for the highest increase in fatal medication errors.

According to lead author Dr. David P. Phillips, sociology professor at University of California at San Diego

“Increasingly, people take their medications at home, away from hospitals and clinics. But most studies of fatal medication errors have focused on those clinical settings. We wanted to know three things: how many of these fatal errors happen at home; how many involve alcohol and/or street drugs; and are these numbers going up?”

Combining different drugs and drugs with other substances (e.g. alcohol, some foods) is dangerous. Millions of people are swallowing pills every day. Drug- drug interaction happens when two perfectly safe drugs become suddenly dangerous when combined inside the human body. The prescribing information and the product labeling of a drug clearly specify what other drugs should be avoided to prevent interactions. Patients, however, do not pay much attention to these warnings. In addition, illegal drugs and alcohol should, by default, not be taken concomitantly with medically prescribed drugs. Those with a drug or alcohol habit however do not even care.

In addition, most studies on medical error focuses on children and the elderly. This study shows that such errors can easily occur in adolescents and younger adults as well. Sometimes these so-called errors are actually not really errors but results of addiction.

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