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Drug Deaths Reach Epidemic Levels, And It's Hydrocodone Not Heroin That's Killing Us

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While our roads are getting safer, the number of Americans are dying from drug overdoses has doubled in the last decade. That means more of us are dying from overdoses than traffic accidents for the first time since the government started keeping track of drug-related deaths in 1979, according to the Los Angeles Times.The culprits, overwhelmingly, are not coke and heroin but totally legal drugs (even if they're illegally obtained).

"It's a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain," Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School, told the Times. "But we haven't figured out the safety belt yet."

Public health experts are calling our addictions to prescription drug an epidemic. They blame a confluence of factors: doctors trying to lessen patients' suffering, aggressive sales by pharmaceutical companies and the legality of drugs that catches us off-guard.

"People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor," Opferman said. "Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn't have the same stigma as using street narcotics."

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One of the quirks of the rise in prescription drug use is "backwards" smuggling into Mexico.