Legal drugs, deadly outcomes: LA Times investigation on prescription drug deaths

An excellent long read on the growing phenomenon of prescription drug overdoses in Southern California, which a Los Angeles Times investigative team reports "now claim more lives than heroin and cocaine combined, fueling a doubling of drug-related deaths in the United States over the last decade."

Health and law enforcement officials seeking to curb the epidemic have focused on how OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and other potent pain and anxiety medications are obtained illegally, such as through pharmacy robberies or when teenagers raid their parents' medicine cabinets. Authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed for them by their doctors.

A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that in nearly half of the accidental deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, the deceased had a doctor's prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death. Reporters identified a total of 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs from 2006 through 2011 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties.

Not one of them was from marijuana, which remains a schedule 1 narcotic and is responsible for zero overdose deaths because one cannot die from a marijuana overdose.

Read the rest. Reporting by Scott Glover, Lisa Girion, with photos and video by Liz Baylen.

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