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Drug Overdose Facts

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Every day, 44 people in the U.S. die from overdose of prescription painkillers, and many more become addicted. 

Prescription Painkiller Abuse, Overdose, and Death

A big part of the overdose problem results from prescription painkillers called opioids. These prescription painkillers can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following a surgery, injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis. The most common drugs involved in prescription overdose deaths include: 

  • Hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin)
  • Oxymorphone (e.g., Opana)
  • Methadone (especially when prescribed for pain)

Prescription painkiller overdose deaths also often involve benzodiazepines. People who take prescription painkillers can become addicted with just one prescription. Once addicted, it can be hard to stop. In 2013, nearly two million Americans abused prescription painkillers. Each day, almost 7,000 people are treated in emergency departments for using these drugs in a manner other than as directed.

Taking too many prescription painkillers can stop a person’s breathing—leading to death.

Graphic credit: medicineabuseproject.org