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Prescription Drug Abuse Sending More to Hospitals
Date:4/6/2010

Overdoses of painkillers and sedatives up 65 percent in U.S., study finds

TUESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitalizations caused by accidental and intentional abuse of prescription sedatives, tranquilizers and other painkilling drugs has risen dramatically over the last decade, new research reveals.

Hospital stays from an unintentional overdose of opioids (such as Vicodin and Percocet) and sedatives (such as Valium and Ativan) jumped 37 percent between 1999 and 2006, the study found. Intentional overdoses of these drugs skyrocketed by 130 percent in that time.

"We're seeing a tremendous increase in serious overdoses associated with the use of prescription drugs," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jeffrey H. Coben, director of the Injury Control Research Center at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and a professor of emergency and community medicine.

"And while I know that people have seen headlines on Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith, this is not a problem just contained to celebrities," Coben stressed. "This is a problem that is dramatically on the rise throughout the country, and it's very important that people understand that prescription drugs are very powerful, potentially life-threatening and need to be used as prescribed and with caution."

In the United States, in fact, poisoning -- which includes overdoses -- now ranks as the second-leading cause of death from unintentional injury, according to the study.

The study, reported in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, presents a snapshot of prescription drug abuse drawn from a database that tracks hospitalizations nationwide.

The researchers found that hospitalizations that resulted from prescription opioid, sedative and tranquilizer use had increased 65 percent during the seven-year study period when accidental and intentional use were included.

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