By Norma Erickson
According to the CDC’s latest edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), accidental drug overdose is now the second leading cause of injury death in the United States – right behind automobile accidents. Four out of every five of these accidental overdoses are from prescription drugs.
Consider the sobering statements from this single paragraph of the latest report:
“In the United States in 2007, unintentional poisonings were the second leading cause of injury death (after motor-vehicle crashes) (1); approximately 93% of all unintentional poisoning deaths were caused by drug poisoning, also known as drug overdose (2). From 1990 to 2001 in Florida, the nonsuicidal poisoning death rate increased 325% (3). To characterize recent trends in drug overdose death rates in Florida, CDC analyzed data from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which found that, from 2003 to 2009, the number of annual deaths in which medical examiner testing showed lethal concentrations of one or more drugs increased 61.0%, from 1,804 to 2,905, and the death rate increased 47.5%, from 10.6 to 15.7 per 100,000 population. During 2003–2009, death rates increased for all substances except cocaine and heroin. The death rate for prescription drugs increased 84.2%, from 7.3 to 13.4 per 100,000 population. The greatest increase was observed in the death rate from oxycodone (264.6%), followed by alprazolam (233.8%) and methadone (79.2%). By 2009, the number of deaths involving prescription drugs was four times the number involving illicit drugs. These findings indicate the need to strengthen interventions aimed at reducing overdose deaths from prescription drugs in Florida. Medical examiner records are a timely, population-based source for data regarding overdose deaths from specific drugs. The data in this report and subsequent analyses can be used to design and measure the effectiveness of interventions.”
Deaths reported from prescription drugs increased 84% during the same time period deaths attributable to heroine decreased by 62% and deaths from cocaine declined by 39%.