For the Pill of It

April 1, 2014
by Craig Outhier
Phoenix Magazine

Drug treatment professionals agree that the preponderance of prescription meds is the main root source for exploding overdose rates. "Prescription pill abuse is the nation's fastest growing drug problem... and it has been for a long time," Stephanie Siete says. As director of community education for Community Bridges, a statewide provider of behavioral health programs, Siete has seen addiction and abuse in most of its forms firsthand. She also knows her stats.

"Drug death rates since the early '90s have tripled," she says. "In 1999, 17,000 died [nationally] from drug overdoses. Ten years later, it was 37,000. More people die from drugs than car accidents, now. And the majority of them die from [prescription drugs]."

Arizona's high drug-overdose mortality rate – sixth in the nation at 17.5 per 100,000, according to a 2010 study by Washington think tank Trust for America's Health – doesn't spare its teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the poisoning death rate among teens ages 15 to 19 roughly doubled from 1999 to 2009, primarily because of a sharp increase in prescription drug overdoses.

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