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Drug Poisoning Most Common, Expensive Cause of Fatal U.S. Injuries: CDC

Two new government reports suggest that deaths from drug poisonings have doubled in recent years, now accounting for more than a quarter of the burden of costs from fatal injuries on the healthcare system. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued two new reports last month detailing the cost of injuries in the U.S., which it estimates was $671 billion in 2013.

The report indicates that drug poisonings, including prescription drug overdoses, “accounted for the largest share of fatal injury costs” at 26%, overtaking transportation-related fatality costs and firearm death costs.

The data was released in two Morbitidy and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs) on September 30, with one focused on the cost of fatal injuries and the other on the cost of non-fatal injuries in 2013. The cost of fatal injuries was $214 billion, while non-fatal injuries cost the country $457 billion, according to the reports.

“Injuries cost Americans far too much money, suffering, and preventable death,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a press release. “The doubling of deaths by drug poisoning, including prescription drug overdose and heroin, is particularly alarming.”

The studies found that men accounted for 78% of the costs for injury deaths and 63% ofnonfatal injury costs, $166.7 billion and $287.5 billion respectively.

While drug-related deaths accounted for 26% of costs of fatal injuries, transportation-related deaths accounted for 22%, suffocation deaths accounted for 9%, and deaths resulting from falls accounted for 5%. Among non-fatal injuries, 37% of costs came from fall injuries, and 21% came from transportation-related injuries, all other types of injuries were significantly lower.

In 2012, the CDC named prescription painkiller overdoses a “U.S. epidemic.” The report detailed the increasing numbers of overdose deaths by opioid and narcotic painkillers. The report noted opioid painkillers were responsible for more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined since 2003.

Another more recent CDC report found that women are affected by prescription painkiller abuse more than men. In 2013, the CDC reported that overdose deaths among women are on the rise in the U.S. The CDC found a 400% increase in overdose deaths caused by prescription pain medication among women since 1999.

However, a study released in January suggested the country may be turning a corner on painkiller abuse. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 15 found that rates of opioid painkiller use declined from 2011 to 2013.

The researchers said that the decline could be attributed to effective intervention and prevention programs launched to battle the drug abuse problem.

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