National Safety Council outlines seven startling facts about Rx painkillers

ITASCA, Ill. — In observance of National Poison Prevention Week, which is March 16 to 22, the National Safety Council has released a list of facts many people do not — but need to — know about prescription painkiller use.

Did you know?

1. Forty-five people die every day from opioid prescription painkillers — more deaths than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined;

2. In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were provided to medicate every American around the clock for an entire month;

3. More than 70% of people who abused prescription pain relievers got the pills from friends or relatives. Only about 5% got the painkillers from a drug dealer or from the Internet;

4. The United States contains only 4.6% of the world's population, but consumes 80% of the world's opioids and 99% of the world's hydrocodone;

5. While middle-aged men and women have the highest prescription painkiller fatal overdose rates, the rates are increasing most rapidly among women. Overdose death rates in women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men. Teen use also is rising. One-in-eight high school seniors admit to using prescription painkillers recreationally;

6. Prescription painkillers are gateway drugs to heroin. In 10 years of treating patients for substance abuse and addiction, NSC Medical Advisor Dr. Don Teater reports having just one patient whose prescription painkiller addiction began with a heroin addiction. All other patients have first been addicted to painkillers and switched to heroin because it is cheaper; and

7. Heroin overdose deaths receive significant media attention. But while these deaths increased 45% from 2006 to 2010, prescription painkiller deaths have risen by more than 300% since 1999.

"The number of fatal prescription painkiller overdoses is staggering and unacceptable," stated John Ulczycki, VP strategic initiatives at NSC. "We need immediate action at the local, state and federal levels. National Poison Prevention Week is the perfect time to begin a dialog about how to address this issue so we can save lives."

According to the NSC report, Prescription Nation, 47 states are failing to adequately address nonmedical prescription painkiller use. NSC examined state efforts in four areas: state leadership and action, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, responsible painkiller prescribing and overdose education and prevention programs.

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