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Prescription opioid overdoses rose seven-fold in New York City from 1990 to 2006, according to researchers at Columbia University. They found the increase in drug overdoses was due to painkillers. Methadone overdoses remained stable, and heroin overdoses decreased during the same period.

While most studies on recreational use of opioids have focused on rural areas, the new study suggests urban areas are also being hard hit by opioid use, the article notes.

Whites were much more likely than blacks or Hispanics to overdose on painkillers, PsychCentral reports. In 2006, the death rate among white males was almost double that of Latinos, and three times higher than blacks, the researchers report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“A possible reason for the concentration of fatalities among whites is that this group is more likely to have access to a doctor who can write prescriptions,” lead researcher Magdalena Cerdá, DrPH, of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, said in a news release. “However, more often than not, those who get addicted have begun using the drug through illicit channels rather than through a prescription.”

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