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A Prescription Drug Death Every 14 Minutes, Surpassing Traffic Fatalities In U.S.

An increase in prescription narcotic overdoses has caused legal drug deaths in America to outnumber traffic fatalities, a Los Angeles Times analysis of government data has found.

Legal drugs killed at least 37,485 people nationwide in 2009, surpassing motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The death toll from drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, Soma and other commonly abused medications has doubled in the last decade, now claiming an American life every 14 minutes, while traffic accidents, historically known as a leading cause of preventable deaths, have declined because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health officials have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which has become an epidemic. This is the first time drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979, according to the Los Angeles Times.

To put this data in another agonizing perspective, the number of preventable deaths associated with these drugs each year is more than ten times the number of Americans killed by terrorists in the September 11 attacks.

It is critical to be aware of the dangers associated with improper use of prescription medications, as well as the need to keep them out of the hands of  teens who can pilfer them from a parent’s medicine cabinet.

Because these drugs are prescribed by a physician, many people do not recognize how deadly they can be. Illegally obtained narcotics kill more people each year than heroin and cocaine combined.