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article imageNew study shows dramatic rise in prescription painkiller abuse

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 15, 2010 in Health
A new US government study shows a dramatic increase in painkiller abuse that cuts across all age, race and ethnic groups as well as in every region of the country.
The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a 10-year study (1998-2008) on the non-medical abuse of prescription painkillers that shows an increase of more than 400 percent on those aged 12 and older, from 2.2 percent to 9.8 percent.
The dramatic rise in the proportion of admissions linked with the painkiller abuse occurred in almost all population segments regardless of age, education level, gender and employment status.
In a press release, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. said: “The non-medical use of prescription pain-relievers is now the second most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the nation, and its tragic consequences are seen in substance abuse treatment centers and hospital emergency departments throughout our nation.”
Other problems associated with the upward trend of prescription pain reliever abuse show emergency visits to hospitals more than doubled between 2004 and 2008.
The report, The TEDS Report - Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Involving Abuse of Pain Relievers: 1998 and 2008, notes the “nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers is a matter of increasing public health concern.”
It added the nonmedical use of prescription painkillers was the second most widespread type of illegal drug use, falling behind marijuana.
Increases in abuse were especially pronounced with admissions aged 18 to 34. In that group, 1.5 percent reported painkiller abuse in 1998. That number rose to 13.7 percent in 2008. That age group was closely followed by admissions aged 25 to 34, showing painkiller abuse increased from 2.1 percent to 13.5 percent.
The majority of nonmedical users of prescription painkillers in the past year (55.9 percent obtained their pain relievers from a relative or friend for free. Another 8.9 percent bought them from a relative or friend.
“This public health threat demands that we follow the President’s National Drug Control Strategy’s call for an all out effort to raise awareness of this risk and the critical importance of properly using, storing, and disposing of these powerful drugs,” Hyde added.
The report notes the growing trend of prescription painkiller abuse is likely to impact the health care system because of overdoses and adds additional resources might be required for treating abuse and dependence involving the drugs.
“These findings should serve as exclamation points to punctuate what we already know –abuse of prescription drugs is our country’s fastest-growing drug problem, the source of which lurks far too often in our home medicine cabinets. Reducing prescription drug abuse is a top priority of this Administration’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy, and requires collaboration across the medical, prevention, treatment, and enforcement communities,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
SAMHSA is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.
More about Non-prescription painkillers, Substance abuse, Painkiller abuse
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