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The 10 Most Dangerous Meds Driving America's Pill Crisis

More Americans now die from prescription pills than car accidents. The nation's response to the trend will define an era, but corporate influence threatens reform.

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How will pill popping transform our lives? Certain things are predictable: The drug industry will develop and sell more and more chemicals targeted at the brain, which remains medical science’s “black box”; that will result in treatments to enhance the performance of mood, cognition, attention, memory and other mental functions that will have become, in due course, “medical conditions.” Any pill that promises to make you smarter or happier invites abuse, and some will be as addictive as Oxy or the “morphine popsicle.” But with the enforcement of effective policies—the seat belts and DUI laws of pharmaceuticalization—the drug industry’s off-label marketing and the medical profession’s overprescribing could be dramatically curtailed.

Given the current state of corporate influence over politics, these reforms are anything but predictable. What's at stake is nothing less than the nation’s expanding medicine cabinet doubling as its morgue.

The Top 10 Most Dangerous Rx Drugs in America

This list of brand name and generic drugs was compiled from the Drug Abuse Warning Network's (DAWN's)  database of emergency room visits in 2009, including drug poisonings that lead to both deaths and survivals.

1. Xanax (alprazolam) 112,552 (benzodiazepine class)

2. OxyContin (and other oxycodone drugs)  105,214 (opiate class) 

3. Vicodin (and other hydrocodone drugs)  86,258 (opiate class)

4. Methadone 63,031 (opiate class)

5. Klonopin (clonazepam) 57,633 (benzodiazepine class)

6. Ativan (lorazepam) 36,582 (benzodiazepine class)

7. Morphine drugs 31,731 (opiate class)

8. Seroquel (quetiapine) 29,436 (antipsychotic class)

9. Ambien (zolpidem) 29,127 (sedative class)

10. Valium (diazepam) 25,150 (benzodiazepine)