Prescription painkillers are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with deaths by overdose tripling in the last 30 years and overtaking car crashes for the first time, research from the National Center for Health Statistics showed.
The research unveiled an upward trend in overdoses as prescription painkillers have becoming increasingly common along with a decrease in the number of Americans dying on the road.
Overdoses actually overtook car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in 2008, but a lag in reporting only made it evident this year, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported. The number of people who died from overdoses tripled since 1980, while the number killed in car accidents actually dropped to close to half of its 1980 numbers. In total 41,000 Americans died from drug poisoning in 2008—77 percent unintentionally—and 38,000 people died in road accidents, the Daily Mail reported.
The abuse of prescription painkillers is evident in the number of robberies at pharmacies in recent years, the Daily Mail reported. The number of robberies has increased 82 percent since 2006, the paper said. The number of people abusing prescription painkillers has also risen dramatically, with an estimated 12 million Americans now using these pills to get high, up from 500,000 five years ago.
The problem of prescription painkiller abuse has even reached the White House, with the Obama administration launching a pilot program to make it easier for doctors to access patient prescription drug records, MSNBC reported. The program is meant to alert medical professional to abuse of painkillers and other prescription drugs and help prevent more accidental deaths.