Sales of five leading painkillers in the USA nearly doubled between 1997 and 2005, according to new research.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) figures show that retail sales of the drugs rose by 90% over the eight-year period.
More than 200,000lbs of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine were purchased at stores across America during 2005.
Such a volume is enough to provide more than 300mg of painkillers to every person in the country.
Oxycodone, the chemical used in OxyContin, is responsible for most of the increase, with sales of the drug jumping nearly six-fold between 1997 and 2005.
The drug gained notoriety after a boom in illegal sales which were centred around Appalachia in Virginia.
But its highest rate of sale now occurs in places such as suburban St Louis, Missouri, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Robert Walker, a researcher at the University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, said: “What we’re seeing now is the rest of the nation catching up to where we were.”
The DEA figures include nationwide sales and distribution of drugs by hospitals, retail pharmacies, doctors, and teaching institutions.
Federal investigators use the data primarily to try and identify illegal prescription patterns across the country.
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