Deaths tied to prescription drug overdoses have doubled in the last decade and now outnumber traffic fatalities for the first time since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979, according to a Los Angeles Times
analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Times analysis also found that deaths from prescription drugs tripled nationwide from 2000 to 2008, exceeding deaths from cocaine and heroin combined. Drug-related deaths reached an all time high in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people — about one every 14 minutes.
The Times reported that public health officials are using the comparison with traffic deaths to draw attention to what they describe as a growing epidemic, as more people become addicted to painkillers and other prescription medicines.
“Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive, and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol,” the newspaper reported Monday.
“Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine,” the newspaper said.
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