Drug Overdose Now Leading Killer in the United States

The reality of the drug problem throughout the United States is nothing new, but the fact it has risen in the rankings as a cause of death certainly is enough to make headlines. The Centers for Disease Control has announced accidental overdose has become the number one cause of death for adults aged 35-54. Even more alarming, accidental overdose is now the second leading cause of death in America. Accidental deaths have risen sharply in the last 20 years. This figure is driven greatly by the number of prescription drug painkillers being used at home instead of just hospitals. Without proper medical supervision, people are easily overmedicating themselves and developing an unintentional addiction. While some policymakers and other drug prevention educators have suggested methods for reversing this trend, such as harm reduction, many still argue against teaching drug addicts how to safely use their vice to maintain a high without inducing death. Others also suggest persons in the throes of addiction may not be the most willing of students. According to CDC medical epidemiologist Leonard J. Paulozzi, “The increase from 1999 to 2004 was driven largely by opioid analgesics (painkillers), with a smaller contribution from cocaine, and essentially no contribution from heroin. The number of deaths in the narcotics category that involved prescription opioid analgesics increased from 2,900 in 1999 to at least 7,500 in 2004, an increase of 160 percent in just five years. By 2004, opioid painkiller deaths numbered more than the total of deaths involving heroin and cocaine in this category.” The United States has a significant problem. Not only are people developing an unintentional addiction to pain medication, many others are purposefully seeking the euphoric high these medications can deliver. Even worse, securing a prescription and selling the pills on the street has proven to be a very lucrative business. Without drastic changes, this trend will likely continue.

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