Prescription painkiller overdoses kill 69,000 a year: WHO
Number of people using opioid prescription painkillers, which can lead to addiction, is increasing, WHO warns
About 69,000 people are dying from overdoses of potentially addictive opioid prescription painkillers and the number of people using them is increasing, the World Health Organization has warned.
WHO expert Nicholas Clark told a press briefing at the UN's Geneva headquarters on Tuesday: "Opioids are probably the most addictive substances and the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US."
"Ten years ago ... the vast majority of deaths were heroin deaths. Increasingly, prescription opioids are being used and are being seen as the cause of death," he said.
Among people who inject drugs, opioid overdose is the second most common cause of death after HIV and AIDS, according to the WHO.
Prescription opioids are used in the treatment of chronic pain, said Clark.
"There has been, in the US and some other countries, an enormous increase in the use of opioids as a treatment approach to chronic non-cancer pain, such as lower back pain, and this has been associated with a significant increase in the number of deaths due to prescription opioids."
The U.S., China, Iran and Russia have high numbers of opioid users.
Last Modified: 2014-11-05 09:15:14
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