Nightly News   |  July 02, 2013

Prescription pain reliever overdose increases 400 percent among women

According to the Centers for Disease Control, opiate pain reliever deaths among women jumped between 1999 and 2010, during which time nearly 48,000 women died from prescription pain killers. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> 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.