Amid questions about the possible role of drugs in Michael Jackson's demise, the US Drug Enforcement Administration Friday renewed concerns about rising deaths from misuse of prescription pills.
Some people close to the 50-year-old pop icon revealed Friday they had been concerned for some time about his use of drugs, a day after he collapsed and died apparently from cardiac arrest at his rented Los Angeles home.
In response to numerous calls triggered by the singer's sudden death, the DEA put back up on its website a May report into prescription drugs that showed more than 8,500 people died from misusing them in 2005.
It warned that more people died from drug abuse than in shootings, and in the category of accidental deaths it came only second to car accidents.
The LA coroner was carrying out an autopsy on Jackson Friday, and toxicology results are not expected for several weeks.
But celebrity website TMZ.com, which broke the news of Jackson's death, reported Friday he had been administered an injection of the powerful painkiller Demerol about an hour before he lost consciousness.
Los Angeles Police Department Officer Karen Rayner said investigators spoke with the doctor who gave Jackson the dose but they wanted to speak with him again. Late Thursday night, officers impounded the doctor's car, which was parked at the mansion.
The overuse of prescription pain-killers, stimulants or tranquilizers, either opium-based or synthetically manufactured, is on the rise in the United States.
In 2005, the last year for which figures are available, there were more than 8,500 deaths nationwide, an increase of 114 percent on 2001.
Hospital admissions due to an overdose of such drugs leapt 74 percent from 2002 to 2006, and emergency room visits were up 39 percent, the DEA said.
Most of those needing treatment were aged between 18 to 25, the agency added, and said that between 2003 to 2007 some six percent of Americans in that age group had admitted using prescription drugs for non-medical uses.
Most obtain the drugs by stealing them, hooking up to false Internet pharmacies or from friends and relatives.
"Diversion and abuse of prescription drugs are a threat to our public health and safety similar to the threat posed by illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of national drug control policy.
"In 2006, the last year for which data are available, drug-induced deaths in the United States exceeded firearm-injury deaths and ranked second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of accidental death."