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Prescription and non-prescription painkillers have pulled ahead as the leading cause of death in 15 states. Painkillers are easier to find, apparently so simple to obtain that in some states more people die from overdoses than the number that die in auto accidents.

For the past ten years, auto accidents have caused the most injury-related deaths. Overall, they still do: according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2006 there were 45,000 auto accident related deaths as compared to 39,000 drug overdose deaths. However, 15 states including Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois, have more drug deaths than auto accident deaths. Specifically, Michigan had 500 more drug related deaths than auto accident related deaths in 2006.

The CDC found that many drug related deaths were caused by abuse of opiate painkillers such as methadone, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. In fact, according to the CDC’s statistics, 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 10 adolescents are prescribed opiate painkillers each year. Back in February, regulators announced that they were stepping up their efforts to combat opiate painkiller abuse. Particularly, they targeted 24 powerful painkillers and sent letters to 16 drug companies to inform them that their drugs were subject to review by the Food and Drug Administration. Specifically, the FDA is concerned about high-potency painkillers, which can cause serious health problems, including death.

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