ER visits related to opioid abuse skyrocket, study finds

ATLANTA Emergency room visits due to abuse of prescription pain relievers more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, according to a new government study.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that the number of ER visits linked to abuse of prescription opioids went from 144,644 in 2004 to 305,885 in 2008, a 111% increase, based on data from SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network, which tracks drug abuse data from emergency rooms.

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

Oxycodone, the generic name for Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin, was the biggest culprit, with ER visits rising during the 2004-2008 period by 152% to 105,214. Hydrocodone was the second most cited drug with a 123% rise to 89,051 visits, followed by methadone with 63,629 visits, a 73% rise.

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