Study: Prescription drug overdoses surpass deaths from illegal drugs

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The death rate from accidental overdoses involving prescription medications jumped 179% in 10 years. It now tops the rate of deaths caused by overdoes of illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, according to a new long-range study.

Opioid pain relievers, including codeine, morphine and Demerol caused the majority of prescription drug overdose deaths, according to a 10-year study. The results indicate that greater overdose prevention efforts should be targeted at this group of drugs, said lead researcher Mark Mueller, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nursing home residents typically use multiple different prescription drugs at one time.

Between 1994 and 2003, accidental prescription drug overdoses increased from 1.9 out of 100,000 deaths to 5.3 per 100,000 deaths. Unintentional overdose deaths caused by illegal drugs increased 121% over the 10-year period.