People who abuse prescription drugs often do so believing the pills are safe because they are prescribed by doctors and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, addiction experts say.
In 2005, non-medical use of painkillers contributed to more than 8,500 deaths. Overdose deaths involving prescription pain relievers increased 114 percent from 2001 to 2005, the most recent year for which nationwide data is available, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith, two celebrities whose deaths resulted from accidental overdoses, had each taken a lethal combination of prescription drugs -- painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping aids. The cause of Michael Jackson's death remains under investigation, pending the result of toxicology screening.
Non-medical use of prescription drugs is most prevalent among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.