Prescription Painkiller Overdoses Tripled In Past Decade
November 1, 2011

Prescription Painkiller Overdoses Tripled In Past Decade

According to a report released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has tripled in the past decade.

The CDC said the new finding shows that over 40 people die every day from overdoses on prescription pain killers like hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin) and oxymorphone (Opana).

“Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a press release “States, health insurers, health care providers and individuals have critical roles to play in the national effort to stop this epidemic of overdoses while we protect patients who need prescriptions to control pain."

The CDC said the increased use of prescription painkillers for non medical reasons has contributed to the large number of overdoses and deaths.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1 in every 20 people in the U.S. aged 12 and older in 2010 reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said that sales of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and health care providers have increased by over 300 percent since 1999.

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America, ” Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement. 

In the new report, the CDC analyzed state data on fatal drug overdoses, non medical use of prescription painkillers, and sales of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and health care providers.

The agency found that state death rates from overdoses ranged from a high of 27 per 100,000 people in New Mexico to a low of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Nebraska.

In Oklahoma, 1 in 12 people aged 12 and older are using prescription painkillers for nonmedical purposes, according to the CDC.

Prescription painkiller sales per person were over three times higher in the state of Florida than in Illinois.

The CDC recommended in its report that health care practitioners and public insurers "Start or improve prescription drug monitoring programs, which are electronic databases that track all prescriptions for painkillers in the state."

“Almost 5,500 people start to misuse prescription painkillers every day,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement. “Just like other public health epidemics, community—based prevention can be a proven, life—saving and cost—effective key to breaking the trend and restoring health and well—being.”


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