CDC Calls for Urgent Action on Abuse of Pain Medication

Nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers rose 111 percent between 2004 and 2008, according to a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Reuters reported June 17. 

The study showed that emergency-room visits increased from 144,644 in 2004 to 305,885 in 2008; the trend cut across age and gender lines. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone were the three most-abused drugs, rising 152 percent, 123 percent, and 73 percent, respectively, during the study timeframe. 

ER visits for less-prescribed drugs, such as morphine, fentanyl, and hydromorphone were lower, according to SAMHSA, but still rose significantly. Treatment for hydropmorphone abuse, for instance, rose 259 percent from 2004 to 2008.

“We urgently need to take action,” said CDC director Thomas Frieden. “Emergency-department visits involving non-medical use of these prescription drugs are now as common as emergency-department visits for use of illicit drugs.”

More than 13,000 deaths involving opioids occur in the U.S. each year. 

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