Substance Abuse

Prescription Drug Overdose Rates Higher Than Heroin and Cocaine

While cocaine and heroin are among the drugs that are considered as illegal and more dangerous, it is prescription drugs – which are technically considered as legal – that accounts for more fatal cases of drug overdose, according to a new Florida study.

A feature on Bloomberg shared that prescription medication has been associated with 76 percent of all overdose deaths in the state of Florida, between 2003 and 2009. Illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, were associated with only 34 percent of the deaths due to overdose, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report indicated that while death rates due to overdose on illegal drugs dropped by 21 percent, death rates due to prescription drug overdose rose by 84 percent, between 2003 and 2009. Death rates due to heroin abuse dropped to 62 percent within the period, while cocaine overdoses showed a decline in 2008 and 2009 (despite an increasing trend until 2007).

The report shared further that “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.”

The reason for increase in prescription drug overdose is being attributed in part to its availability. Leonard Paulozzi, a medical epidemiologist at CDC’s Injury Center, stated the following in a phone interview: “The sense is that the widespread availability of prescription drugs is causing people to switch from illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

Florida Drug Screening

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