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

rgency department visits rose 73 percent, to close to 64,000, according to the report.

For one drug, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), emergency room visits for misuse soared by 259 percent over the four years of the study, Delany said.

This has been a growing problem, he added. "We have a lot of data now that people are misusing prescription drugs and the rate is growing," he said. "We are also starting to see this happen in treatment. We are seeing more people coming in to drug treatment because of prescription drug misuse," Delany added. Much of this problem is the result of the increased availability of these medications, he explained.

"We know that some young kids are taking these things from their parents' medicine cabinets," he said. "We know that some people have them left over and they are making their way into non-medical use."

In addition, some people may be selling the unused portion of their prescription, Delany added.

"We really need to think about how you appropriately use the medication and if you have leftover medication how do you get rid of it safely," he said. "These are pretty powerful drugs. These aren't anything to mess with."

Drug companies have tried creative ways to stem the abuse of these drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a reformulated form of OxyContin that is designed to prevent tablets from being cut, broken, chewed or dissolved.

This should prevent the faster high gotten by crushing the pills, Delany noted, but it won't prevent the "usual high" obtained after swallowing them. "That doesn't mean it's still not a problem if you swallow it," he said.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "more attention should be directed to the hazards of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, so that their hazards are as well and widely known, and as respected by parents and
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