The drug of choice for Americans is changing, and it's killing at an alarmingly fast rate.  The result is what the Center for Disease Control is calling an epidemic.  Unlike many well-known drugs, the manufacturing and distribution of it is legal.  And it's BIG business.  So what is the culprit?

FOX News Radio's Chris Hoenig has the answer:

A new report from the Center for Disease Control reflects a disturbing trend.

"We are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription drug overdose in this country."

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden unveiling the data Tuesday.  In the past year alone, 15,000 people have died after OD'ing on pain pills.

"That's about 40 deaths per day from prescription painkillers."

The reason they're so popular?

"Essentially, these are narcotics."

But they're a lot easier to get than typical street drugs.  The number of painkillers sold to pharmacies has quadrupled in the last decade, enough to cover every American adult for a month.  The result:

"Now there are more people killed by prescription narcotics than from heroin and cocaine combined."

Prescription painkillers include OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone.

Chris Hoenig, FOX News Radio.

Some celebrities that have died from painkiller overdoses include actors Jeff Conaway and Heath Ledger.

For more on this story, watch the VIDEO HERE:

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