According to research published Tuesday from the National Center for Health Statistics, 38,329 people died of drug overdoses in the United States in 2010, up from the previous year and the latest in a series of studies showing fatal trends involving prescription painkillers.
In 2010, 57% of overdoses, or more than 22,000, involved known prescription drugs. Three-quarters of those involved painkillers like Oxycontin and Percocet while another 9,400 involved unidentified drug combinations.
More than 74% of all prescription drug deaths were accidental. Only 17% of overdoses were determined suicides. Drugs in the opioid family, like Oxycontin, methadone and codeine, were often present in fatal drug cocktails.
An opioid was found in 77% of overdoses that involved benzodiazepine, a depressant like Valium, Xanax or Ativan. The addictive narcotic was also involved in 65% of overdoses with antiepileptic or anti-Parkinsonian drugs; 57% of overdoses with antidepressants; and 56% of overdoses with anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing drugs. Fatal prescription drug overdoses over the last decade have outnumbered deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded and wrote the study which was published in the journal of the american Medical Association.