Shelby Holliday
November 3, 2011

Pills Can Kill


When you work in news, you are bound to encounter stories that hit a little too close to home.

That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday — while I was in New York editing a piece about prescription drug abuse, some of my high school friends were in Denver attending a memorial service. Over the weekend, we learned that our former classmate Jaret had overdosed on painkillers and died.

Losing someone at such a young age is always a tragedy, but as I learned yesterday, this kind of tragedy is not unique.

According to a new report from the CDC, nearly 15,000 people die from prescription painkiller overdoses each year — that’s more than those who die from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined. And that’s not the only disturbing statistic from the CDC:

  • Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the US in 2008. This is more than 3 times the 4,000 people killed by these drugs in 1999.
  • In 2010, about 12 million Americans (age 12 or older) reported non-medical use of prescription painkillers in the past year.
  • Nearly half a million emergency department visits in 2009 were due to people misusing or abusing prescription painkillers.
  • Non-medical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs.

Our growing painkiller problem has gotten so bad that the CDC is now calling it a “public health epidemic,” and many abusers say they got hooked when they were young.

Prescription addiction is no joke. If you or someone you know has a problem, we have a list of resources here.

Pills can kill, and one life lost is one too many. My complete report from today’s show is below.

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