ER Visits Over Misuse of Opiods

Posted on June 25, 2010

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that there has been a spike in emergency room visits for recreational use of opioid prescription drugs, which has more than doubled between 2004 and 2008. The number of ER visits for prescription drugs is now equal to the number of visits for illegal drugs and the misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs according to the CDC.

It’s fair to say that the abuse of prescription drugs is a growing national problem for all ages, although the report shows that it is more common for women to abuse these common painkillers than men. The painkillers are typically written to someone recovering from surgery.

ER visits for prescription narcotics went from 144,644, in 2004 to 305,885 in 2008, which represents a 111 percent increase. People in the ER took a higher than recommended dose of the narcotic, took someone else’s prescription, or misused the drug.

Top on the list of most widely abused is oxycodone. That alone rose 152 percent. Hydrocodone rose 123 percent, and methadone rose 73 percent. Among other drugs commonly abused is the family of anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines. Also alcohol use and abuse was seen combined with the drugs and contributing to the ER visits.

It is not unexpected that the spike in ER visits coincides with a sharp increase in the prescribing of these types of drugs, according to the CDC. Looking at raw numbers, the number of ER visits rose from 1.6 million in 2004 to 2 million in 2008. Do you wonder if it is ultimately up to the taxpayers to pay for this reckless use and misuse of prescription medications?

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