Overdose Deaths Up Sharply

Prescription drugs now kill more than cocaine and heroin
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2008 8:05 AM CST
Joshua Perper, chief medical examiner for Broward County, displays a bottle of methadone collected in a possible drug overdose death.   (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – The death of Heath Ledger from a suspected drug overdose has highlighted a huge spike in drug overdoses in the US, reports the Los Angeles Times. Accidental poisoning deaths, 95% of which are overdoses, rose sharply from 12,186 in 1999 to 20,950 in 2004. Doctors say prescription drugs, which are often casually prescribed and easy to get online, are behind the alarming rise.

Overdoses of prescription drugs now kill more people than overdoses of heroin and cocaine combined. Drug workers say that as the use of prescription drugs has grown, people are underestimating their dangers. "The whole 'get some medicine for whatever you need' attitude has really increased the acceptability of prescription drugs," an expert commented.