Pain Medication Overdose Fatalities Continue to Increase, CDC Reports

More than 40 people die every day due to overdoses involving prescription pain medications, stresses a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report released in November 2011. The report indicates that the death rate from overdoses of drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin®), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin®), and oxymorphone (Opana®) has more than tripled in the past decade. CDC Director Thomas Frieden noted that such overdoses “now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined,” as stated in a CDC press release. Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, stated that all Americans have a role to play in curbing the prescription pain medication drug abuse trend. Kerlikowske said that “Health care providers and patients should be educated on the risks of prescription painkillers. And parents and grandparents can take time today to properly dispose of any unneeded or expired medications from the home and to talk to their kids about the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.” The CDC issue brief, “Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses,” includes an overview of the problem on a national scale, as well as a state-by-state breakdown of overdose death rates, and “supports state–based efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse while ensuring patients have access to safe, effective pain treatment.”