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Study Finds Prescription Painkillers Cause More Deaths than Cocaine, Heroin

Tina Robinson2 years ago

A new study conducted researchers from McGill University in Canada sought to determine why deaths from prescription painkillers have been on the rise in recent years.

About the Prescription Painkiller Study

According to Medical News Today, the results of the McGill University study were published in the American Journal of Public Health. The team noted that the U.S. and Canada rank No. 1 and No 2. respectively in per capita opioid consumption. In fact, the researchers found that prescription painkillers were involved in more than 16,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2010. That same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that “over 12 million people reported using prescription painkillers without a prescription or for the feeling they cause.”

The author of the study, Nicholas King, told Medical News Today that “[p]rescription painkiller overdoses have received a lot of attention in editorials and the popular press, but we wanted to find out what solid evidence is out there.”

The researchers examined information on opioid-related fatalities in both the U.S. and Canada between 1990 and 2013 and concluded some of the following causes for increased deaths:

  • Increased prescription and sales of opioids
  • Increased use of strong, long-lasting opioids (including Oxycontin and methadone)
  • Combined use of opioids and other drugs and alcohol
  • Social and demographic factors

Opioid Abuse Statistics

The CDC estimates that for every one death there are:

  • 10 treatment admissions for abuse
  • 32 emergency room visits for misuse or abuse
  • 130 people who abuse or are dependent
  • 825 nonmedical users

The CDC has identified the following groups of people as being most at risk for opioid abuse:

  • People who “doctor shop” – a practice where multiple prescriptions are obtained by visiting multiple providers.
  • People who take high doses of prescription painkillers daily.
  • Low-income people and those who live in rural areas.


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