Thursday, October 8, 2009

MA Among 16 States with Higher Drug Deaths Than Car Accident Deaths

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that in more than 16 states, more people were killed by drugs than by auto accidents. The study, which was reported by the Associated Press, found that the majority of drug-related deaths were caused by the abuse of painkillers.

The report, which analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System Mortality File, found that in 2006, more than 90 percent of poisoning deaths involved drugs. In fact, from 1999 to 2006 drug-related poisonings accounted for the largest portion of poisoning deaths overall.

Opioid analgesics, which are usually prescribed to treat pain, were involved in almost 40 percent of all poisoning deaths in 2006, up from about 20 percent in 1999. According to the AP story, for decades traffic accidents have been the biggest cause of injury-related death in the U.S. While they are still number one nationally, drug overdoses are pulling ahead in one state after another.

The number of states in which drug-related deaths have overtaken traffic fatalities has gone from eight in 2003 to 12 in 2005, and 16 in 2006. They are: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

CDC’s data also show that among opioid analgesic-related deaths, those involving methadone increased the most during the period 1999-2006. Methadone is a long-acting opioid used to help people addicted to painkillers and other opioid-based drugs, and in some cases as a painkiller.

"People see a car accident as something that might happen to them," said Margaret Warner, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the AP article. But as for death from a drug overdose, "maybe they see it as something that's not going happen to them."

CDC researchers counted more than 45,000 U.S. deaths nationwide from traffic accidents in 2006, and about 39,000 from drug-induced causes. Nationally, the death rate from traffic accidents fell by about 6.5 percent from 1999 through 2006 - from 15.3 deaths per 100,000 people to 14.3 per 100,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.