(NBC News) Women in the United States are dying after overdosing on prescription painkillers at rates never seen before in this country.
"Prescription opiates like Oxycontin now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined," said Tom Frieden, MD, MPH- CDC Director.
The drugs can be highly addictive.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control finds the rate of such overdoses among women has increased by more than 400 percent since 1999.
Many start abusing perscription painkillers at young ages, like Alyssa Dedrick who became hooked on Oxycontin at age 14.
"I craved it after that.. It's like the addiction hit me right away," said Dedrick.
Painkillers are often prescribed to women who are more likely than men to have chronic pain conditions like Fibromyalgia and migraines.
"They're more likely to be prescribed medications for that pain, and because they're lighter on average, they're more likely to get into trouble with the same doses of medication," said Frieden.
The medication may be important for people with conditions like severe Cancer discomfort.
But for many, experts say the risk of long-term addiction may outweigh any immediate benefits.
Alyssa has beaten her addiction, but acknowledges the growing number of women who don't.