The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a new report today that lists the drugs most frequently involved in U.S. overdose deaths. Cannabis did not make the list as its fatal overdose count is still stuck at zero, but prescription pharmaceuticals nearly ran the table.
The report covered overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016, and prescription medication took up nearly every spot in the Top 15 across all six years. Oxycodone and fentanyl topped the list in 2011 and 2016, respectively, and prescription opioids made up at least a third of the list annually. Likewise, anxiety medications like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) made the list each year, while clonazepam (Klonopin) made it the last four years. Cocaine (which consistently finished second or third) and methamphetamine were also regulars, though both drugs have recognized medical value and double as prescription medication.
Other notable entries included acetaminophen (Tylenol), amphetamine (Adderall), diphenhydramine (antihistamine), gabapentin (anticonvulsant) and citalopram and amitriptyline (antidepressants). Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that plays a major role in many overdoses, but it did not appear on the list because the government doesn't classify it as a drug.
All of the substances listed above are available with a prescription, over the counter and/or directly from the retail shelves. In the end, heroin was the only fully prohibited drug to make the list, and the opiate contributed to the most deaths between 2012 and 2015.
The U.S. government fully prohibits a drug by classifying it as Schedule I, a designation that implies no medical value, no safe use and a high potential for abuse. Heroin falls into the Schedule I category, cocaine and methamphetamine are both Schedule II, while several drugs on the list aren't scheduled at all.
Cannabis did not make any of the lists, nor will it ever, yet the government has seemingly superglued Schedule I classifications to both the plant and its non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD). Studies suggest "no medical value" cannabis can help with pain relief, anxiety, depression and other disorders, so it begs the question, how many lives might've been saved if medical patients took cannabis and/or CBD for applicable conditions instead of a Top 15 overdose drug?
And speaking of begged cannabis questions, how long will the DEA keep up this "no safe use" charade now that most of the world knows they're full of shit? Maybe seeing drug overdose deaths increase by 54 percent over the six-year period will finally wake 'em up.