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Dealing with drug deaths

October 21, 2013
Providence Journal

Over the past decade, U.S. public health officials have noted a surprising spike in fatal drug overdoses. Between 1999 and 2010, deaths involving prescription pills quadrupled, according to the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit organization.

Rhode Island has not been immune. As reported on Oct. 10 by Journal Medical Writer Felice Freyer, the state typically suffers four overdose deaths a week. As in 28 other states and the District of Columbia, drug deaths here outstrip motor vehicle fatalities. While overdose deaths tend to be highest in the poorest regions of the country, Rhode Island’s rate, disturbingly, is 13th highest overall, and highest in New England. (The highest rate, according to 2010 figures, is in West Virginia.)

The over-prescribing of painkillers has been partly to blame. Sales of such drugs as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin quadrupled in the past decade, helping to foster a drug-dependent subculture.

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