Deaths from prescription drug overdose surge
Celebrities struggling with prescription drug abuse have sounded a warning bell about the dangers of misusing legal medications. From Heath Ledger to Whitney Houston and now country star Mindy McCready, the headlines should give people pause. But new reports say the problem is getting worse.
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say deaths from medication overdose have risen for 11 straight years. The story was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The CDC analysis found that nearly 40,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in 2010. Prescribed medication accounted for almost 60 percent of the fatalities—far more than deaths from illegal street drugs. Abuse of painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin were linked to the majority of the deaths, according to the report.
Gathering information from death certificates, the report found that anti-anxiety drugs like Valium were linked to nearly 30 percent of the deaths. People using prescription drugs to commit suicide accounted for 17 percent of the total.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says that prescribed narcotics produce a powerful euphoria and is the main reason why many people use the drug for non-medical reasons. But chronic use can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. The FDA says the fact the drugs are so widely prescribed and available adds to their popularity.
For more information about prescription drug abuse, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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