WASHINGTON -- Prescription-drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental deaths in 16 states, a greater rate than car accidents.

Yesterday, a Senate panel pressed administration officials and experts for answers.

Prescription drugs used properly aren't a problem, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who chaired the hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime and terrorism. "But their abuse poses a serious and growing threat to our communities and young people."

Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown isn't on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but he was the first to testify at yesterday's hearing. He described the extent of the problem in the state, especially southern Ohio.

"Prescription-drug abuse in Ohio -- and our nation -- needs to be treated like the epidemic it is," Brown said. "From the policies to the stories, it's clear prescription-drug abuse is nonpartisan. It's clear it is an issue of life or death in too many parts of our nation, especially Ohio."

He promoted a bill he introduced that he said would prevent prescription-drug abusers from acquiring excess drugs -- which they might abuse or illegally-resell -- by barring them from visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies. Twenty states have similar legislation.

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