The problem is one of the few health issues the CDC is working on that are clearly getting worse, he added. For many decades, the overwhelming majority of U.S. overdose deaths were men killed by heroin or cocaine. But by 2010, 40 percent were women - most of them middle-aged women who took prescription painkillers.
Skyrocketing female overdose death rates are closely tied to a boom in the overall use of prescribed painkillers. The new report is the CDC's first to spotlight how the death trend has been more dramatic among women.
The CDC found that the number and rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths among females increased about fivefold 1999 to 2010. Among men, such deaths rose about 3 1/2 times. Read more >>