Deaths from prescription painkillers have decreased for the first time since 1999, while heroin deaths have surged, suggesting some addicts may have turned to illicit drugs as new federal and state restrictions made prescription narcotics harder to get, say federal data reported by USA Today. Abuse of prescription opioids, such as the powerful painkiller OxyContin, fueled a surge in overdose deaths, which quadrupled from 4,030 in 1999 to 16,917 in 2011. The numbers are based on mortality data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2012, deaths from prescription painkillers dropped 5 percent to 16,007, said CDC data issued yesterday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Deaths from all prescription drugs dropped 3 percent. “It’s some really encouraging news after many years of really grim news,” says Michael Botticelli, acting director of drug control policy. He says the drop gives him hope that federal, state and local strategies have worked, including crackdowns of doctors who over-prescribe and prescription drug monitoring programs that make it more difficult for drug abusers to get prescriptions from more than one doctor. The number of states with prescription drug monitoring programs rose from 20 states in 2006 to 48 states now.