ER Visits Doubled Due to Legal Prescription Painkillers

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A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has shown that one million people went to the ER because of prescription or over the counter medication in 2008, about the same number of cases due to illegal drug use.

Painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone and sedatives were on top of the list for these harmful prescriptions drug abuse. This dangerous increase is alarming to health officials and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said "The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation's fastest-growing drug problem."

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"We urgently need to take action. These prescriptions medicines help many people, but we need to be sure they are used properly and safely", said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC Director, in a statement.

“The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. And this new study shows it is a problem that affects men and women, people under 21, and those over 21,” Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said in a written statement.

The report says that in Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah and Vermont, accidental drug deaths related to benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety and include Xanax, Librium and Valium, increased 64 percent between 2004 and 2007. Deaths related to opioid analgesics other than methadone increased 47 percent during the same period, the report says.

The report It concludes that the increases in ER visits “suggest that previous prevention measures, such as provider and patient education and restrictions on use of specific formulations, have not been adequate. Given the societal burden of the problem, additional interventions are urgently needed, such as more systematic provider education, universal use of state prescription drug monitoring programs by providers, the routine monitoring of insurance claims information for signs of inappropriate use, and efforts by providers and insurers to intervene when patients use drugs inappropriately.”

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