Lifestyle & Belief

Drug overdose deaths increase for 11th consecutive year


Bottles of prescription pills go through an automated packaging machine December 2, 2010 in Willingboro, New Jersey.


Stan Honda

Drug overdose deaths in the United States continued to increase for the 11th consecutive year in 2010.

According to The New York Times, federal officials said overdose deaths rose 3.6 percent from 2009 to 2010, with 38,329 deaths being attributed to drug overdose in 2010.

Prescription drugs were involved in almost 60 percent of the deaths, with 22,134 caused by them, up 6 percent from 2009. Opioids, like oxycodone and Vicodin, were involved in most deaths related to prescription drug overdose, with their death toll at 16,651 in 2010, up 7 percent from 2009. Prescription drug overdose deaths quadrupled from 1999 to 2010.

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"The big picture is that this is a big problem that has gotten much worse quickly," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which gathered and analyzed the data, reported the Tampa Bay Times.

The data came from death certificates, continued the Tampa Bay Times, which don't relate whether deaths were ruled suicides or accidental overdoses. Most painkiller overdoses, however, appear to be accidental, according to chairman of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Dr. Rich Zane.

"The results are consistent with what we experience" in emergency rooms, he said, adding that the statistics have surely gotten worse since 2010.