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ER Visits Soaring for Prescription Painkiller Misuse
Date:6/17/2010

Abuse of OxyContin, Vicodin and the like keeps rising, U.S. government report shows

THURSDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- Recent years have seen a steep rise in U.S. emergency department visits by people abusing prescription pain drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Dilaudid, a new report finds.

In fact, between 2004 and 2008 the abuse of opioid medications like these increased more than 111 percent overall, and a whopping 29 percent during 2007-2008 alone, the researchers say.

"What we are seeing is a startling increase in the number of emergency room visits for non-medical use of narcotic pain relievers," said Peter Delany, director of the Office of Applied Studies at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected the data for the report.

"This is a significant public health concern," he said. "So much of a concern that this is one of the center points of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's strategies to look at prevention and treatment."

The study used data from SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) emergency department system, which examined emergency department visits for non-medical use of prescription drugs.

The increase in emergency room visits occurred among both men and women and was seen across the age spectrum, including teens and young adults, the researchers found.

According to the report, the estimated number of emergency room visits for the non-medical use of opioid pain killers rose from more than 144,600 in 2004 to almost 306,000 in 2008.

Misuse of oxycodone (brand name OxyContin) rose 152 percent between 2004 and 2008, to more than 105,000 emergency room visits. For products containing hydrocodone (Vicodin, for example) emergency department visits rose 123 percent, to more than 89,000; and for the heroin-substitute methadone eme
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