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The New War On Drugs: Prescription Meds | The Safety Report

FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2013 file photo, OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. A Nevada l
FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2013 file photo, OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. A Nevada legislator asked the drug company that makes OxyContin to turn over information about Nevada doctors suspected of overprescribing the powerful pain medication. Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, wrote a letter to the president of the drug-maker Purdue Pharam on FridayAug. 16, 2013 saying the company has an ethical duty to provide the information to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners. The Las Vegas Democrat is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and longtime backer of efforts to curb prescription drug abuse. He made the request days after two California lawmakers did the same based on a Los Angeles Times' article that the company has a database of 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing, but has referred only 154 cases to authorities since 2002. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Drug abuse now kills more Americans per year than homicide or car accidents and is now the fastest-growing cause of accidental death in the U.S., according to recent studies. But the term “drug abuse” is broad. If you delve a bit deeper, you’ll see that much of this war is now fought on different turfs: the doctor’s office, your local pharmacy and even college campuses, where the use of prescription pills is rampant—whether it’s to help cram for exams or to earn extra cash.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one person dies from a drug overdose every 19 minutes. In fact, exactly 28,754 Americans died after accidentally overdosing on legal or illegal drugs in 2009—and approx. half of those deaths involved prescription painkillers. What’s more, for every person who dies from prescription meds, there are 32 more emergency room visits. The numbers are so grim that some experts have now declared prescription drug abuse an epidemic.

The soaring increase in sales of prescription painkillers explains most of the deaths. In 1999, a total of 2 kg of such drugs were sold for every 10,000 people; as of 2010, that number had jumped to about 7 kg. According to the CDC, opioid analgesics, such as methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone are the most common cause of drug poisoning.

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