Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner believes more people are dying from prescription drugs, but not typically from those prescribed to them for medical conditions.

Between 2007 and 2012, there were 437 prescription drug-related deaths in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Matthew Bowes says up to 40 percent of those deaths were suicides while the others were accidental.

“There certainly is a cluster of deaths who are in their 20s but there’s a much bigger peak actually in the 40s,” says Bowes.

He says more men than women are in that group.

But while age and gender are easy to identify, it is more difficult to determine where people are getting the drugs.

“People are not typically dying of the drugs that were prescribed to them for medical conditions,” says Bowes.

“I would say that typically they’re dying from prescription drugs that are bought from other illicit sources.”

Bowes says it’s a problem that is increasing in the Maritimes, but also across the country.

“It’s very clear when you look across sort of 12 to 15 years of data that the number of prescription drug overdose deaths has gone up and I think it’s roughly doubled over that time period.”

Amy Graves lost her brother Josh to prescription drugs in March 2011. The 21-year-old died after mixing alcohol and Dilaudid at a party.

“I think we’re doing better in terms of awareness and people and especially professionals acknowledging there is a problem,” says Graves.

“But it’s more and more apparent to me that things are not changing fast enough.”

Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine has promised that prescription drug education will be added to school curriculum starting at the middle school level next September.

He also says a drug information system is now being rolled out to strengthen the province’s prescription drug monitoring program. It is expected to be in place in a little more than a year.

“So that we can again be vigilant on those that try to double doctor or, for some reason, are able to get prescriptions somewhere else,” says Glavine.

Graves says collecting data is good, but what is done with the data is more important. For now, she is vowing to do what she can to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster