Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010, according to an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and. continued to rise in 2011, the most recent year for which data were available.
Drug overdose deaths in the United States increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010, according to an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and continued to rise in 2011, the most recent year for which data were available.
The overdose deaths are due to both prescription opioids and heroin. Prescription opioid deaths have been rising for more than a decade, and increased about 2% to 16,917 in 2011. In contrast, heroin deaths dramatically rose by 44%, from 3,036 in 2010 to 4,397.
According to the CDC, the rise in heroin related deaths may be partly caused by individuals switching to illegal drugs when access to prescription opioids became difficult. The increasing number of deaths related to heroin use coincides with anecdotal reports about rising heroin use among individuals who report diminished access to prescription opioid painkillers. Thus, some experts say that the increase in the number of deaths related to heroin is not surprising.
A CDC report published last year noted that in 2010, nearly 60% of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics played a major role in overdose deaths, accounting for about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical-related incidents (16,651). Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths related to opioid overdose increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.
In addition, drugs that are often prescribed for mental health conditions are involved in a significant number of pharmaceutical related overdoses. Benzodiazepines, for example, were involved in nearly 30% (6,497) of these cases.
Overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines used concomitantly with opioids, are also rising. They accounted for 31% of opioid overdose deaths in 2011, which is up from 30% in 2010. The combination of these drugs accounted for 30% of the 16,651 overdose deaths involving narcotic painkillers in 2010.