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Prescription overdose deaths decrease in Georgia
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After years of steadily increasing, overdose deaths have declined in the state by 8.6 percent from last year.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation released their annual report on drug overdose deaths Tuesday, based on an analysis of autopsies performed by the GBI Medical Examiners office. These statistics do not include autopsies performed by medical examiners in Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Henry, Hall or Rockdale Counties.

In 2009, the GBI reported that there were 670 drug overdose deaths - 584 of them involving prescription drugs or a combination of prescription and illicit drug use. Of those deaths, 508 were due to overdosing on prescription drugs with the most common drug found being Xanax. Deaths were most prevalent in black males between the ages of 45-54, and 595 of them were ruled accidental.

The next year saw an increase from 670 deaths caused by overdose to 729. Again, the largest numbers were for prescription drug overdoses (560), the most common being Xanax. While the age and gender of those overdosing the most stayed the same, the ethnicity changed, with more than 90 percent of overdose deaths being white males between the ages of 45-54.

However, in 2011, the GBI reported that these deaths have gone down, after analyzing autopsies performed in 152 Georgia counties. Compared to 2010 numbers, there was an 8.6 percent decrease in overdose deaths.

In 2011, there were 664 drug overdoses, 512 which involved prescription drugs, 82 involving illicit drugs and 70 that were a combination of both prescription and illicit drugs.

Once again, the overdose deaths are most common in white males between the ages of 45-54, and of the 664 total deaths, 91 percent (603) were ruled accidental.

"We really don't know for sure why there's a decrease," said GBI spokesman John Bankhead. "There have been efforts over the past couple of years by physicians, pharmacists, the state legislature and law enforcement to address the prescription drug problem, and we are hoping these efforts will result in a continuing decline in overdose deaths. But these efforts can only go so far in addressing the problem since the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual patient."