Deaths Tied to Painkillers Continue To Rise

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 30 2013 2:36 PM

Deaths Tied to Painkillers Continue To Rise

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Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin were largely responsible for an increase in drug-related deaths

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

In what amounts to a major disappointment for public health officials, deaths tied to abuse of prescription drugs continues to increase in the United States. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that total drug fatalities increased 3 percent in 2010, reports the Los Angeles Times, noting that preliminary data from 2011 shows the trend has continued. Although the number reflects all drug-related deaths, the increase was in large part driven by prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, which, accounted for 43 percent of all fatal overdoses in 2010.  

"While most things are getting better in the health world, this isn't," CDC director Tom Frieden said in an interview. "It's a big problem, and it's getting worse."

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The new data comes at a time when the Food and Drug Administration is considering implementing new measures to decrease the use of painkillers for non-cancer patients.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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