Nightly News | July 02, 2013
>>> big news today about a spike in the number of middle aged women who are becoming addicted to prescription pain medicines. and a warning from the cdc about the thousands who are dying from it every year. our report tonight from tom costello.
>> reporter: statistics from the cdc are cause for real concern for doctors, pharmacists and hospitals. between 1999 and 2010 , nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses, a dramatic increase of 400%. more women now die from all types of drug overdoses each year, than motor vehicle accidents or cervical cancer .
>> i fell down the stairs, blacked out.
>> reporter: she was hooked on perk set after surgery and a broken collarbone. then scxanax nor a stressful job.
>> i know what to tell a doctor to get the prescription. so i would tell them i have back pain.
>> reporter: for years, doctors have been warning that doctors are overusing opiate painkillers like demerol, oxycodone, and vicodin.
>> prescription opiates now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. they send more people to emergency departments than heroin and cocaine combined.
>> reporter: men are also abusing drugs more than ever, but doctors believe women are becoming bigger abusers, because very often they have chronic pain , they go to many doctors in search of more prescriptions and the prescriptions can be for higher doses of painkillers. alyssa was a good student and athlete when she started using prescription pain meds. soon she was a high school dropout shooting heroin.
>> heroin made me not feel, which is what i think i was looking for the whole time.
>> reporter: she became clean and graduated from college. with the help of the phoenix house recovery center, suzanne is working to stay clear.
>> it's one day at a time.
>> reporter: tom koss 12e8 low, nbc news, washington.