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37,792 died from drug overdoses in 2010, U.S. says

January 11, 2012 |  3:26 pm

The number of drug deaths in the U.S. continued to climb in 2010, even as mortality from many other causes, including car accidents, declined, new government data show.

According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control, 37,792 people died from overdoses and other drug-related causes in 2010. By comparison, 35,080 deaths were attributed to car accidents, 31,513 to guns and 25,440 to alcohol.

Because of time-consuming toxicology tests, drug deaths take longer to sort out than other types of deaths. As a result, government analysts expect the number of drug deaths for 2010 to rise in the final count.

In 2009, the number of drug deaths rose substantially from the preliminary figure to a final count of 39,147, according to the new data. That marked the first year since the CDC has been keeping such records that drug deaths exceeded car accident fatalities.

The preliminary 2010 data do not show what types of drugs were involved in the deaths. But a Los Angeles Times examination last year of recent government data found that prescription drugs, especially painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs, accounted for more fatal overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined.

Propelled largely by prescription medications, drug deaths have been escalating for several years, doubling over the decade, a trend that prompted the CDC last year to declare prescription drug overdoses a national epidemic.


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