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A new study found mixing street drugs and alcohol with prescription medications has attributed to a fivefold increase in the number of deaths ascribed to medical errors since the 1980s. In 2004, 17% of deaths due to medication errors were caused by the combination of a person taking medications at home with alcohol or a street drug, sometimes both. This figure was up from 2.3% in 1983.

The rise in accidental deaths caused by medication errors has occurred as drug consumption has shifted from hospitals and clinics to homes. Patients are now being made to follow the drug’s directions and be in charge of quality control, which some patients are definitely not ready for. The study has suggested the way to remedy this growing problem is increased screening to determine if a patient is abusing alcohol, prescription drugs, or street drugs. It also suggests increased vigilance in prescribing medications that are known to have dangerous reactions to street drugs and alcohol.

The study found medication errors that did not involve alcohol or drugs, for example accidental overdoses, were the most deadly, killing 8,634 people in their homes in 2004. Consumers aged 40-59 account for 53% of individuals who died due to medicinal error, up from 18% in 1983. An IMS Health report has shown prescription drugs in the United States have grown 73% since 1996. This helps prove the conclusion that more and more people are dying due to the increased usage of prescription drugs and the combination of these drugs with street drugs and alcohol.

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