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CDC: Prescription Meds Deadlier Than Heroin

By Paul A. Achoa Health & Fitness Expert


According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of accidental overdoses of prescription pain medication tripled in the last ten years, and deaths owed to painkillers, such as Vicodin, methadone and oxycodone now outnumber those caused by cocaine and heroin combined.

The CDC's analysis showed prescription painkiller overdoses at "epidemic" levels, with more than 40 people dying every day from the over-ingestion of narcotic pain killers. According to the CDC, The report showed death rates among whites and American Indians at three times those of Hispanics and blacks. Additionally, the rate of death was highest among those between 35 and 54 years of age.

According to the CDC, overdoses led to 830,652 years of total potential life lost by the age of 65, a figure comparable to the number of years lost to car accidents in the United States. The study found that death rates on a state-by-state basis varied, with 27 deaths for every 100,000 people in New Mexico, 5.5 per 100,000 in Nebraska, and wide variations in between.

The report also showed variations between states regarding nonmedical narcotic painkiller abuse, with a high of 1 per 12 people in Oklahoma and a low of 1 per 30 in Nebraska. According to the study, narcotic painkiller sales per individual person were highest in Florida and lowest in Illinois.

Last April, the CDC released an action plan intended to head off the prescription painkiller abuse problem in the United States. Called “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis,” the plan included support for state-based drug monitoring efforts, more convenient medication disposal methods, and education for healthcare providers and their patients. According to the CDC, 48 states have now implemented monitoring programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of prescription drug abuse.