Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

CDC: Unintentional Poisoning Deaths Leap

Painkiller Overdoses Causing Huge Numbers of Deaths
WebMD Health News

March 25, 2004 -- The poisoning death rate in the U.S. increased 56% in the past decade. The majority of these -- 63% -- were unintentional deaths, with most caused by painkiller overdose, a new CDC study shows.

The national report shows results of a 11-state study -- involving Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin -- from 1990 to 2001.

In all those states -- except Massachusetts and Utah -- there were increases in unintentional poisoning deaths. These unintentional deaths jumped 145% overall -- largely because of the increase in painkiller overdoses, the study shows.

"Among U.S. adults, drug overdoses are the largest cause of poisoning deaths," writes researcher Catherine Sanford, PhD, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

More than one-half -- 51% -- of poisoning deaths involved OxyContin and other prescription painkillers as well as other illicit drugs: 15% involved cocaine, 8% alcohol, 7% heroin, 5% antidepressants, 5% benzodiazepines, and 5% methadone.

These states had the largest increases in poisoning deaths:

  • Florida: 325%
  • Kentucky: 252%
  • Massachusetts: 228%

Other patterns:

  • Women had twice the increased deaths as men: 203% compared to 126%.
  • Adults aged 65 and under had the highest death rates: 359% in 45 to 54 year olds; 195% in 35 to 44 year olds.
  • Adults aged 65 and over had a 28% decline in poisoning deaths.
  • Death rates began increasing during 1991-1992 in Colorado (125%), Massachusetts (228%), and Washington (108%).
  • Death rates in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina (80%), and Wisconsin (123%) were stable from 1990 to 1996 - but they increased after 1996.
  • Death rates increased substantially from 1990 to 1996, but declined afterward in these states: Delaware (186%), New Mexico (105%), Oregon (28%), and Utah (183%).

"Unintentional drug overdose deaths are often caused by the misuse of multiple drugs," Sanford writes. Therefore, it is difficult to determine how each drug contributed to the death. Nevertheless, abuse of prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, is a big part of the problem, she adds.


Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration