A report issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that in 2008 drug poisoning deaths became the leading cause of injury death in the USA, with almost nine out of 10 poisoning deaths caused by drugs.
For the first time since 1980 the number of drug poisoning deaths in the United States exceeded those killed on the nations roadways, with 41,000 drug poisoning deaths compared to some 38,000 deaths from traffic accidents.
The report, Drug Poisoning Deaths in the United States, 1980–2008 (Download a PDF version at end of story) states that in the past 30 years the number of drug poisoning deaths increased 498 percent – from about 6,100 in 1980 to 36,500 in 2008.
Soaring drug poisoning deaths not the result of illegal street drugs
However, soaring drug poisoning deaths are not the result of illegal street drugs such as crystal meth, smack, heroin or amphetamines, but rather the drug poisoning deaths are largely the result of legally prescribed, US-FDA approved pharmaceuticals or medicines, with 77 percent of drug poisoning deaths being ruled accidental.
According to the report opioid analgesics were present in more than 40 percent (15,000) of drug poisoning deaths in 2008, an increase of about 275 percent on 1999 figures, while drug poisoning deaths increased by 58.9 percent, from 56 percent of all deaths in 2008 to 89 percent in 2008, the number of drug poisoning deaths increasing by 90 percent in the last decade.
Lead author of the report, Dr. Margaret Warner, said nine out of ten of those drug poisoning deaths was from prescription drug overdose, with the most common being opiate-based pain relievers such as Percocet (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), and OxyContin ( Note: Opium and heroin are not included ).
The report says benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax are involved in the second highest number of drug poisoning deaths and that the highest drug poisoning death rates in 2008 were in males aged 45–54-years, with Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native’s topping the chart at 15.6 percent, followed by Non-Hispanic whites at 14.7 percent and Non-Hispanic blacks at 8.5 percent.
More than 5 million Americans used prescription pain relievers non-medically
In 2009/2010, more than five million Americans admitted using prescription pain relievers non-medically in the prior 30-days (without a doctor’s prescription or primarily for the feeling they caused), with the majority getting the drugs from family or friends.
Noting that the the road accident death rate had fallen by 45.5 percent at the same time as drug poisoning deaths had increased by 90 as a result of the combined efforts of numerous government agencies and organizations, the authors of the report speculate that a similar comprehensive, multifaceted approach may only possibly be able to reverse the trend in drug poisoning deaths in the USA.
View the Drug Poisoning Deaths in the United States, 1980–2008 online,
Or download a PDF version of the drug Poisoning Deaths in the United States, 1980–2008
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John Le Fevre
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