From an abstract of a 2005 paper:
I measured the role of opioid analgesics in drug abuse–related deaths in a consistent panel of 28 metropolitan areas from the Drug Abuse Warning Network. The number of reports of opioid analgesics increased 96.6% from 1997 to 2002; methadone, oxycodone, and unspecified opioid analgesics accounted for 74.3% of the increase. Oxycodone reports increased 727.8% (from 72 to 596 reports). By 2002, opioid analgesics were noted more frequently than were heroin or cocaine. Dramatic increases in the availability of such opioids have made their abuse a major, growing problem. (Source)
The increase was related directly to the marketing push of Purdue Pharma around OxyContin:
Starting in 1996, Purdue Pharma expanded its sales department to coincide with the debut of its new drug. According to an article published in The American Journal of Public Health, “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy,” Purdue increased its number of sales representatives from 318 in 1996 to 671 in 2000. By 2001, when OxyContin was hitting its stride, these sales reps received annual bonuses averaging over $70,000, with some bonuses nearing a quarter of a million dollars. In that year Purdue Pharma spent $200 million marketing its golden goose. Pouring money into marketing is not uncommon for Big Pharma, but proportionate to the size of the company, Purdue’s OxyContin push was substantial. (Source)
More on this trend at Opioids, Alcohol, Suicide.