Missuse of painkillers reaches 'epidemic' levels in US

Misuse of prescription painkiller has reached "epidemic" levels in the US, a government report says. Overdoses of pain relievers cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, the report has found.

It says sales and prescriptions of the drugs rose sharply in recent years and this was linked to the rise in overdoses. Narcotic painkillers are prescribed to relieve chronic pain but the drugs can be "highly addictive", the report says.

The report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said fatalities caused by narcotic pain relievers have more than tripled in the last 10 years - equivalent to 40 deaths a day.

Last year, a national survey on drug use and health showed that one in 20 Americans over the age of 12 said they had used painkillers for non-medical reasons. Named as the fastest growing drug problem facing the US, narcotic painkillers are increasingly used recreationally - for the high they cause.

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