Drug Overdoses Surpass Auto Accidents as Leading Cause Of Fatal Injuries in U.S.: Study

New data suggests that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of fatal injuries in the United States, surpassing even car accidents in most of the country. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health recently issued a report on injuries in the U.S., which shows that drug overdoses have doubled over the past 14 years.

The study urges states to enact appropriate injury prevention programs, confirming recent findings by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which declared drug overdoses at “epidemic proportions” several years ago.

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According to the findings, nearly 44,000 drug overdose deaths occur each year, with half of those linked to prescription drugs. West Virginia was the state with the most drug overdose deaths, with 33.5 per every 100,000 residents.

The report indicates that more than two million people in the U.S. abuse prescription drugs, and that abuse has fueled a resurgence in the popularity of heroin. The drug overdose death rates have been on the rise for four years in 26 states and the District of Columbia. In only six states have the rates gone down.

In 2012, the CDC released a report which indicated prescription drug overdoses have reached epidemic proportions. Prescription drug overdoses kill someone in the U.S every 19 minutes.

Overdoses, intentional and unintentional, by painkillers have driven death rates to numbers higher than those of cocaine and heroin combined since 2003.

White adults aged 55 to 64 experienced the greatest increase in narcotic painkiller deaths.

Beyond the drug overdoses, the report found that motor vehicle deaths are declining, as are homicide rates. But traumatic brain injuries among children are up 60%, and falls among the elderly are expected to increase as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age.

“This report provides state leaders and policymakers with the information needed to make evidence-based decisions to not only save lives, but also save state and taxpayers’ money,” Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance, said in a press release. “The average injury-related death in the United States costs over $1 million in medical costs and lost wages. Preventing these injuries will allow for investments in other critical areas including education and infrastructure.”

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