Drug overdoses are the #1 cause of accidental deaths in the United States, according to data released by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.The ASAM reported that opioids lead this epidemic, with 20,101 deaths resulting from prescription pain reliever overdoses in 2015.
Of those overdoses, 772 were reported in the 15 to 19-year-old age group. In 2015, the Associated Press and USA Today reported 141 deaths of minors in accidental shootings.
While both statistics are significant, they reveal the greater probability of dying from drug misuse than from a gun related incident.
Yet the parallels between the two risks don’t stop at growing statistics; deaths of minors related to both guns and drugs often result from accidents in the comfort of one’s own home. A 2016 study showed a 165% increase in poisonings from opioid painkillers in the 19 and under crowd and found that accidental poisonings increased by 300%. Because prescription painkillers are a common household item, adults run the risk that their children may access the contents of their medicine cabinets and abuse a substance that is meant to circumvent pain.
With guns, there is a set protocol on how to minimize a child’s access, but because of the common use of opioids, it is difficult to limit home access. Gun safes, hidden storage places and extra locks caution children from accessing weapons and create a barrier against firing. Prescription medication, however, is a trickier matter. Adults will often leave medications around their homes, and medicine cabinets are certainly not foolproof. Child locks on cabinets may discourage toddler access, but ultimately fail to account for teens.
Takeaways: The best way to keep your home safe and minimize the risk of an accidental overdose is to keep tabs on where your medications are. Take inventory of your medicine cabinets and monitor their contents. Learn more about how to dispose of unused or expired medications safely.