Poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., and drugs both illicit and pharmaceutical accounted for 90% of poisoning deaths in 2011, according to a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief. Misuse or abuse of prescription drugs, including opioid-analgesic pain relievers, is responsible for much of the recent increase in drug-poisoning deaths, according to the report, Drug-poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics: United States, 1999-2011, which utilized data from the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality File.
Key findings from the report include that the age-adjusted rate for opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths nearly quadrupled from 1.4 per 100,000 in 1999 to 5.4 per 100,000 in 2011, although the rate of increase has slowed since 2006.
In 2011, there were 41,340 deaths due to drug poisoning; 41% (16,917 deaths) of them involved opioid analgesics. About 70% of the opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths in 2011 involved natural and semisynthetic opioid analgesics such as hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone. Benzodiazepines were involved in 31% of the opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths in 2011, up from 13% of the opioid-analgesic poisoning deaths in 1999.
The number of drug-poisoning deaths involving methadone, a synthetic opioid analgesic used to treat opioid dependency and pain, increased from 784 deaths in 1999 to 5,518 deaths in 2007; then it declined to 4,418 deaths in 2011.
From 1999 through 2011, adults aged 55-64 experienced the greatest increase in the opioid-analgesic poisoning death rate, from 1.0 per 100,000 in 1999 to 6.3 per 100,000 in 2011.
Read the full report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db166.htm