The number of deaths attributed to abuse of prescription drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin rose again in the latest federal stats, reports the Los Angeles Times. Those types of drugs are largely responsible for a 3% increase in overall drug fatalities in 2010, say CDC researchers, and preliminary numbers for 2011 suggest things are only getting worse. In all, 16,651 people suffered fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers in 2010, a percentage that accounts for 43% of all fatal overdoses.
"While most things are getting better in the health world, this isn't," says CDC chief Tom Frieden. "It's a big problem, and it's getting worse." The spike worsened a trend that began in 2009, when drugs edged out motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death. The gap has widened, with drugs at 40,393, road accidents at 35,332, and guns at 31,672. The FDA, meanwhile, is considering a proposal that would make it tougher for doctors to hand out painkillers as if they were candy to non-cancer patients. (Read more prescription painkillers stories.)