ER Visits for Prescription Drug Misuse Climbing

Estimated number of visits for nonmedical use of opioid analgesics rises 111 percent in five years
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- From 2004 to 2008, emergency department visits involving the non-medical use of prescription drugs increased substantially in the United States, according to research published in the June 18 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) analyzed 2004 to 2008 data from SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network to evaluate morbidity associated with prescription drug overdoses.

The researchers found that during the study period, there was a 111 percent increase in the estimated number of emergency department visits for non-medical use of opioid analgesics (from 144,600 to 305,900 visits). From 2007 to 2008, in particular, there was a 29 percent increase. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone showed statistically significant increases during the five-year period, and the highest number of emergency department visits was recorded for these three drugs. The non-medical use of benzodiazepines, too, rose dramatically over the study period, from 143,500 to 271,700, an increase of 89 percent, with a 24 percent increase from 2007 to 2008.

"These findings indicate substantial, increasing morbidity associated with the non-medical use of prescription drugs in the United States during 2004 to 2008, despite recent efforts to control the problem. Stronger measures to reduce the diversion of prescription drugs to non-medical purposes are warranted," the authors write.

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