Prescription Pills Quickly Replace Street Drugs as Leading Cause of Overdose Deaths

By Staff Writer

As communities continue to battle the prescription drug epidemic, many are finding that more people are now overdosing on painkillers than illegal street drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Such is the case in Seattle, according to new statistics compiled by a University of Washington researcher. The Seattle Times reports that professor Caleb Banta-Green’s numbers indicate that 62 percent of all overdose deaths in the county now involve prescription pills.

This is a major shift compared to previous years, when illegal street drugs were by far the leading cause of overdose death.

In addition to the number of deaths increasing, the data showed that more people are abusing prescription medications and other opiates. The news source reports that the numbers indicate there has been a dramatic rise in people seeking addiction treatment for these issues since 1999.

The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 20 percent of all U.S. adults have used prescription medications recreationally. This is far greater than the number of individuals who have tried other drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.