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Hawaii News

Isles’ overdose deaths increase 68% in 11 years

A study of drug abuse nationwide says overdose deaths in Hawaii increased 68 percent between 1999 and 2010, to 10.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.

The study released Monday by the Trust for America’s Health says the rate is nearly three times the 1979 rate of 3.8 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.

The advocacy group, which pushes for disease prevention legislation, says the majority of overdose deaths in the state came from prescription drugs.

The study says Hawaii is one of 29 states where drug overdose deaths exceed deaths from motor vehicle accidents. The study cites Centers for Disease Control Data that say Hawaii had 9.1 motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010.

Hawaii’s drug overdose mortality rate is tied for 34th with Wisconsin among the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia was highest at 28.9, and North Dakota was lowest at 3.4.

About 6.1 million Americans abuse or misuse prescription drugs, with deaths involving prescription painkillers quadrupling nationwide since 1999, the study said. The study says deaths from prescription painkillers outnumber deaths from heroin and cocaine.

“Prescription drugs can be a miracle for many, but misuse can have dire consequences,” said Jeffrey Levi, the trust’s executive director.

The study rates Hawaii and other states on regulations that the trust contends can help prevent drug deaths. Hawaii has six of the 10 regulations in place, according to the study, including expanded Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul law. The expanded Medicaid increases coverage of substance abuse treatment.

Hawaii’s other regulations are used in most other states, including a prescription drug monitoring program, doctor shopping laws and requirements for physical examinations before a prescription can be given.

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