13% of Americans take prescription painkillers: study

pill bottlesA new study has found that 7 out of 10 Americans take at least one kind of prescription medication, and more than half take two — and 13% of them take painkillers that can be highly addictive. The study by the Mayo Clinic said that opioids, antidepressants, and antibiotics were the most commonly prescribed type of pills, and that women receive more prescriptions than men across several drug groups, especially antidepressants.

The percentage of people who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% in 1999-2000 to 48% in 2007-08, the study found. Spending on prescription drugs reached $250 billion in 2009 the year studied, and accounted for 12% of total personal health care expenditures, and drug-related spending is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, according to the researchers.

In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs, according to the CDC.

Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these medications, which were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined, the CDC says.

The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years, according to the CDC.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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