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Report: Drug Deaths Now Top Car Accident Fatalities

As San Diego medical malpractice attorneys, we are acutely aware of the risks associated with prescription drugs. New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms just how deadly they can be:

Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide.

This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979, the Los Angeles Times reports. While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes.

Prescription pain and anxiety drugs, which are potent, highly addictive, and especially dangerous in combination with other drugs or alcohol, have contributed to the surge in drug-related fatalities, according to experts. Here in California, the number of prescriptions filled for the strongest pain pills, increased more than 43% since 2007.

As we have reported on this blog, car accident injuries and fatalities have been steadily declining, in large part due to increased safety efforts at the local and federal level. The alarming figures regarding drug deaths suggests that increased drug safety should be next on the country’s agenda.

“It’s a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain. But we haven’t figured out the safety belt yet,” said Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School who is studying ways to lower the risk of prescription drugs.