Can you overdose or die if you use prescription drugs?

Yes, more than half of the drug overdose deaths in the United States each year are caused by prescription drug misuse. Deaths from overdoses of prescription drugs have been increasing since the early 1990s, largely due to increases in misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers. In 2017, more than 33,800 people died from an overdose of prescription drugs. The good news is that among young people ages 15 to 25, deaths from prescription drug misuse declined slightly in 2017.1 Learn more about drug overdoses in youth.

Mixing different types of prescription drugs can be particularly dangerous. For example, benzodiazepines interact with opioids (pain relievers) and increase the risk of overdose. Also, combining opioids with alcohol can make breathing problems worse and can lead to death.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2017 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2018. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov.