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U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths on Rise, Particularly in Women

After motor-vehicle crashes, poisoning is highest cause of death from unintentional causes

FRIDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Accidental poisoning among teenagers and adults has increased in the United States, mostly due to drug overdoses, and is now the second-leading cause of unintentional death after motor-vehicle accidents, according to new data in the Feb. 9 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Drugs, both prescription and illegal, were the primary cause of unintentional poisoning, and the number of unintentional poisoning deaths rose from 12,186 in 1999 to 20,950 in 2004. The rate of increase was faster among women than men, up from 2.3 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 4.7 in 2004. However, the accident rate for males is still higher: 6.5 per 100,000 population in 1999 versus 9.5 in 2004.

Rates among males who were white, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asians/Pacific Islanders rose 50 percent, while rates among black males, the highest in 1999, remained stable. The rates among white females more than doubled, but other ethnic groups registered lower increases or decreased. People aged 35 to 54 accounted for 59.6 percent of unintentional poisoning deaths in 2004, but rates among 15- to 24-year-olds rose the fastest from 1999, jumping 113.3 percent.

"The increase in poisoning mortality occurred almost exclusively among persons whose deaths were coded as unintentional drug poisoning, for which the rate increased 68.3 percent. The rate for poisoning deaths attributed to other substances increased 1.3 percent. By 2004, drug poisoning accounted for 19,838 deaths, 94.7 percent of all unintentional poisoning deaths," the report states.

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