When it comes to prescription painkiller abuse, officials have generally considered users' friends and family to be the main source of the drugs. But a new CDC study says it's doctors themselves who are most to blame for supplying the substances to chronic users, the LA Times reports. The researchers' data comes from the yearly National Survey on Drug Use and Health. While previous investigations had looked into use among both chronic and occasional prescription drug abusers, the new study isolated chronic users—and found that 27.3% of cases pointed to doctors as a source of the drugs.
Friends and family were a factor in slightly fewer chronic cases, some 26.4%. The study indicates it's time to look closer at "problem prescribers" among doctors, a CDC rep says. Two-thirds of abusers, meanwhile, use the substances only occasionally; of that group, more than half are supplied by friends and family, the AP reports. About one in 20 people abuses the painkillers, a figure that's stayed fairly stable recently—but between 1999 and 2010, the number of overdose deaths tripled, earlier studies show. Some 16,000 died by prescription painkiller overdose in 2010, compared to 8,000 for cocaine- and heroin-related OD deaths. (Read more prescription drugs stories.)