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Introduction to Drugs The Role of the Drug Overdose
Generally speaking, drugs are developed to provide a cure to an illness or to give relief from symptoms. Drugs are never developed to end life, at least not in humans. Yet some drugs do cause death, especially if they are administered in ways that were never intended. The usual way to misuse a drug is to exceed the suggested dose: ‘the overdose’.
While most drugs have side-effects (effects other than the purpose for which they are designed), and most side-effects are more pronounced when a drug is misused or taken in overdose, a side-effect like death is always going to be a serious problem for a drug manufacturer.
The company responsible for manufacturing a drug that will cause death in overdose will always be nervous about such a product and there will be a search to develop safer alternatives. So, while there are some drugs that do reliably cause death if misused, this number is small and decreasing. This process of replacing potentially lethal drugs with safer modern alternatives goes on all the time. The lethal barbiturates of earlier years have now been replaced by modern, safer sleeping tablets.
The lethal tri-cyclic antidepressants have almost disappeared, replaced by much safer serotonin uptake inhibitors like Prozac. Pain-relieving drugs like propoxyphene are currently under review and have already been replaced in many countries. The number of drugs that are of practical assistance to a seriously ill person seeking a peaceful death decreases each year.