March 11, 2012

Case Studies Examine Drug Addictions

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A sampling of fatal prescription drug overdoses investigated by state medical examiners illustrates the danger of combining opioid painkillers with other narcotics or alcohol. The case studies, culled from data compiled over a four-week period in 2010, include:

● A 53-year-old Broken Bow woman with a history of back pain and prescription drug abuse. A family member told the medical examiner she sometimes purchased drugs on the street when her Xanax prescription ran out. She tested positive for the painkiller hydrocodone, the muscle relaxer carisoprodol and the tranquilizer meprobamate.

● A 51-year-old Spiro man who died after drinking for several hours with his roommate. The roommate told investigators he left the residence to pick up a friend; when he returned, he found the victim sprawled on the floor. The roommate had been prescribed 100 oxycodone pills four days earlier; he said the bottle was empty when he returned home. The victim tested positive for oxycodone and the antihistamine sedative diphenhydramine.

● A 23-year-old Comanche woman whose boyfriend told authorities the two had been partying the night before. He said the woman had applied two patches containing the painkiller fentanyl, ingested “a few” Lortab and drunk some vodka. Investigators found a bottle containing several Xanax and a small bag of marijuana at her residence. She tested positive for fentanyl, alprazolam and the painkiller propoxyphene.

● A 32-year-old Wagoner man with a history of substance abuse. An examining doctor told the medical examiner it appeared the man had been taking morphine pills on the night he died. A family member said the man’s death was not a surprise because of his drug history. The victim tested positive for morphine and alprazolam.

● A 40-year-old Oklahoma City woman who died after arguing with her boyfriend about her drug use, the boyfriend told authorities. The man said he spent the night on the couch and found the woman’s body in her bed the next morning. Family members told investigators the woman had been in rehab twice and had a history of drug abuse. She tested positive for oxycodone, alprazolam and the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam.

● A 55-year-old Norman woman who had received a Lortab prescription for a painful case of shingles. Her husband told the examiner he found his wife in bed, her face buried in the mattress. Two pill bottles were on a desk by her computer, a nearly empty glass of wine on the floor. She tested positive for hydrocodone, the sleep aid zolpidem and the antidepressant citalopram.

● A 41-year-old Anadarko woman with a history of back pain. Her son told investigators he found his mother on the living room sofa, her body slumped to one side. She had filled a prescription for morphine three days earlier; only three pills were left the day she died. Her blood tested positive for morphine, citalopram, propoxyphene, the tranquilizer diazepam and the muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine.

● A 57-year-old Holdenville man described by his doctor as a chronic alcoholic. His sister found his body on the couch covered with blankets. The medical examiner said several liquor bottles were nearby. Several weeks earlier, he had been given a painkiller prescription after cracking two ribs in a fall. He tested positive for hydrocodone.