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Study: Unintentional drug overdoses 'epidemic' driven by prescription opioid use

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The number of unintentional deaths from overdosing on prescription opioid painkillers in 2007 was greater than those from heroin and cocaine combined, according to a new study by medical researchers at the University of North Carolina, Duke University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who in particular called such deaths among teenagers and adults a national epidemic.

About 27,500 people died from unintentional overdoses on the drugs in 2007, and in some 20 states, the number of drug poisoning deaths exceeds that of either car crashes or suicides, according to the study, published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“It is very important to screen patients with chronic pain who may require opioid therapy for substance abuse and mental health problems, especially depression and other mood and anxiety disorders, and address these problems adequately,” the authors wrote.

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