CDC Report Shows High Rate of Fatal Painkiller Overdoses
In CDC's latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report, researchers reported that the number of deaths in the U.S. annually as a result of prescription pain reliever overdoses exceeds the number of deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined. In 2008, opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone accounted for 14,800 deaths, up from about 4,000 deaths in 1999. Sales of the drugs also jumped four times over the same period. In 2010, nearly 12 million U.S. residents ages 12 and older said they used painkillers for nonmedical purposes, researchers found. They also noted that misuse of opioid painkillers costs health insurers $72.5 billion annually. CDC officials blamed the increase in death rates and misuse on improper prescribing methods, such as pill mills and doctor shopping, and they suggested that increased monitoring and enforcement at the state and local levels are necessary to reverse the trend.
- "Prescription Painkillers Outpace Heroin, Cocaine in OD Deaths" (Brown, "Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 11/1).
- "Painkiller Deaths Nearly Quadruple in a Decade" (Martin, Wall Street Journal, 11/2).
- "Deaths From Painkiller Overdose Triple in Decade" (Nano, AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/1).