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Prescription Drug Abuse Results in One Death Every 19 Minutes in U.S.


One person dies every 19 minutes from prescription drug abuse in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 27,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in 2007, UPI reports.

The rise in unintentional drug overdose deaths has been driven by an increase in use of opioids, the CDC notes in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For every unintentional overdose death linked to opioids, nine people are admitted for substance abuse treatment, 35 people go to the emergency room, 161 report drug abuse or dependence, and 461 report non-medical uses of opioids.

The rate of opioid misuse and overdose deaths are highest among non-Hispanic whites, men ages 20-64, and poor and rural populations.

The CDC says the two main groups at risk for prescription drug overdose are the nine million people who report long-term medical use of opioids, and the roughly 5 million who have used opioids without a prescription or medical need in the past month.

13 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Shanda
    Shanda / February 17, 2012 at 3:24 am

    One must wonder how suicide by overdose factors into this data. From what I have read here and on the CDC article it seems opioids are the biggest culprit in the prescription med overdose epidemic. I do not like the broad and sweeping statement that “Prescription Drug Abuse Results in One Death Every 19 Minutes in U.S.” when it is stated quite clearly “The rise in unintentional drug overdose deaths has been driven by an increase in use of opioids, the CDC notes in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”. I do not disagree there is an issue but I take offense to these cut and dry statements. Not all people who take prescription drugs abuse them. I, for one, do not.

  2. RJs Mom / February 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    That’s BS. A kid can get my hands on prescription pills on the street in 15 minutes, yet I have to fight tooth and nail to get an antibiotic. How many people are dropping dead or visiting ERs from OD on antibiotics? Please tell me because I can’t get an antibiotic when I’m sick and see my doctor. What’s wrong with this picture? We care more about the millions of drug addicts that might be prevented from from their drug of choice by taking methodone or suboxone. So tell me how many are cured since we are so concerned? Obviously not many since they are the ones selling them on the streets to get their heroin. Who cares if someone dies every 19 minutes or not. One person is too many, but that’s not important. We are more concerned about numbers or the drug addict who is selling their pills. You can all argue over your one in 19 minutes all day long, it doesn’t matter. Half of this isn’t even reported. The death certificate of someone who dies as a result of prescription drugs doesn’t always says Overdose, it says adverse reaction to drugs. You don’t have to take 30-50 pills to die. It could be a xanax, suboxone and alcohol. Ask my son. I’m sorry, you can’t. He died 4 years ago when he was 17. And I got news for you honey, your Patients who were looking for their meds on the street weren’t in pain. They were addicts looking for meds when their doctors wouldn’t prescribe them anymore.

  3. Avatar of Linda Cheek, MD
    Linda Cheek, MD / January 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I wonder how many of those accidental overdoses are due to the fact that the US policy is forcing legitimate pain patients to the street for treatment. They get dosed more than they need, not knowing anything about treatment. I know of several of my patients that have died that were legitimate pain patients taking their medications correctly for years until there weren’t any doctors in the area willing to prescribe opiates. But since our government now has a policy of legal genocide of the disabled, elderly and poor, they probably don’t mind.

  4. Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, PhD / January 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Why is it that nobody questions the validity of CDC data? Are they really being unbiased and fair balanced, or are they using their “bully pulpit” to futher an agenda?

    For example, there is at present no clear definition of an opioid-caused unintentional death, yet they act as if they have accurate data. I wrote about this last November when the CDC propaganda first came out.

  5. recoverydefender / January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Yes one death every nineteen minutes, no on all being from prescription drug abuse. The increase of deaths is blamed on prescription drugs. I understand the frustration with manipulated news articles, it is frustrating. The words may be off but the facts still remain- prescription drug abuse is killing far more people than it should. As the laws tighten on prescription opioids more people are turning to heroin, especially young people and you most certainly could count those deaths as resulting from prescription drugs.
    Unless you have experienced it, you could not imagine the desperation of someone addicted to opioids going through withdrawal. That desperation turns them to a much deadlier alternative. The connection needs to be recognized and addressed.

  6. Avatar of Nicole
    Nicole / January 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I checked out the article and it does say there is a death every 19 minutes. Taken from the article – “In 2007, approximately 27,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, one death every 19 minutes. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States.”

  7. Kevin McCall, CDP / January 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Franky,I’m with Marilyn. Your credibility is diminished every time you choose to use eye grabbing headlines that are simply NOT TRUE. Frankly I’m offended that we are being subjected to what I say is, shoddy journalism. I’ve been noticing this practice more and more as your staff continues to belch out eye-grabbing candy headlines. I work hard in the field of treatment. It’s hard enough trying to present information with credibility, considering the biases. This is not grade school. Lets be completely transparent or every false claim will have professionals looking elsewhere for facts. I’ve even printed articles to take to group members. They can spot the false headlines and they are doubly skeptical. This practice will result in what we did in the seventy’s after we were lied to by the government “fact makers”; we used more and believed it was safe. If you cannot be 100% open and honest in all of your works, then do not print it. It is that simple. We are deserving of the truth. We are not sheep; at least the last time I looked in a mirror.

  8. Avatar of Marilyn Belmonte
    Marilyn Belmonte / January 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    The actual text of the report from the CDC does NOT say that every 19 seconds someone dies from prescription drug overdoses. It says that every 19 seconds there is a drug overdose in this country and prescription drug overdoses is a big part of this. Your title and first paragraph are false.

  9. Avatar of Wendy C
    Wendy C / January 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I wonder if those with high incidences of prescription drug abuse, are also found to have co-occuring disorders, as discussd in another article in this newsletter. It seem there is much focus on appropriate diagnosis and treatment, so I wonder where the prescription drug users fall in the statistics about co-occuring disorders, and what we think about the way to treat them. I’m wondering if prescription drug abusers, or those who became dependent, are going to resist perceived stigma of having mental health issues. Getting beyond “addict” label has been great progress for our might we be proactive with what lies ahead for co-occuring and prescription drug treatment?

  10. Avatar of Sara
    Sara / January 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Although those with co-occurring disorders may be more likely to abuse prescription medications because of thier need and access to the medications I believe this accounts for very little of the problem with prescription abuse. Most people who are abusing prescriptions are using opiates which are not a psychotropic medication and people with co-occuring disorders would have no more access to them then the general population.

  11. Avatar of Alice Silverman
    Alice Silverman / December 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Spot on and you can’t ask my son either he died at 19 in 2006.

  12. Avatar of Heather
    Heather / February 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    you wont be able to ask my boyfriend/sons father either because one day he will be dead from overdosing. Rehab didn’t help the meetings didnt help. WHAT TO HECK ARE WE SUPPOSE TO DO for people like this? I honestly feel like banding ALL drugs, addicting, and alcohol, even cigarettes. WHAT GOOD ARE THEY DOING FOR US AS PEOPLE ANYWAYS?!?!?

  13. Avatar of djc
    djc / June 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    We are running out of antibiotics and part of that problem is ourselves who DON’T finish the prescription and allows whatever bug U have continue to do damage. Check out the following:
    This is scary…

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