Abuse of meds sends as many to ER as illegal drugs

Jun 17, 2010 By MIKE STOBBE , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- For the first time, abuse of painkillers and other medication is sending as many people to the emergency room as the use of illegal drugs.

In 2008, ERS saw an estimated 1 million visits from people abusing prescription or over-the-counter medicines - mostly and sedatives. That was about the same number of visits from those overdosing on heroin, cocaine and other , according to a government report released Thursday.

Only five years earlier, illegal drug visits outnumbered those from legal medications by a 2-to-1 margin.

In other words, the number of ER visits from medication abuse doubled, said Peter Delany of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"It's a pretty startling jump. It's a problem," Delany said. He led a team that worked with the on the report.

Painkillers and sedatives clearly drove the trend. ER visits for the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone more than doubled from 2004 to 2008. And cases from one kind of tranquilizer nearly doubled.

The estimates are based on emergency room data from more than 200 U.S. hospitals. Many of the cases may be overdoses, but some may come from mixing drugs or combining them with alcohol, Delany said.

Health officials are not sure why painkiller abuse rose so dramatically. But the number of prescriptions has been increasing, so some of those who ended up in ERs may have gotten their medicine legally.

The authors did not estimate how many of the ER patients died. A CDC report last year found that the rate of drug-related deaths roughly doubled from the late 1990s to 2006, and most of the increase was attributed to prescription opiates such as the painkillers methadone, Oxycontin and Vicodin.

"The abuse of is our nation's fastest-growing drug problem," Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement.

The report is being published this week in a CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Explore further: Snacking while watching action movies leads to overeating

More information: The report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

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aaaaaaaaa
1 / 5 (2) Jun 17, 2010
All drugs should be Legalised.

What I do should be up to me and not the state. (As long as I do not interfere or affect others.)
Royale
not rated yet Jun 18, 2010
agreed. Although coming from a former PK abuser (post car accident and legally prescibed + illegaly obtained.) (I actually just finished treatment, thank you R-B for Suboxone), maybe there should be some oversight? Like make it all legal, but add names to a list. If you start buying 25 Oxy's a day, then they take action to help you out.