|Graphic: White Noise Insanity|
A new U.S. government study finds a 400 percent increase in the number of people admitted to hospital emergency rooms for abusing prescription pain medication such as hydrodocone, oxycodone, and morphine.
Even with the wide popularity of prescription medication, pain pills remained the second most common type of illicit drug use in the United States in 2008, according to the study. While more than six million Americans admitted to abusing prescription painkillers in the month before the survey, more than double that amount — 15.2 million people — said they had used good old marijuana.
The increase in pill abuse among those 12 and older was recorded during the decade from 1998 to 2008. It crosses every gender, race, ethnicity, education and employment level, and all regions of the country, according to The Associated Press.
According to the study, seven of the top ten drugs reported abused by 12th graders are prescription drugs, reports the Dakota Voice.
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The dramatic jump in opiate abuse was greater than treatment admission rate increases for methamphetamine abuse, which doubled, and marijuana, which increased by almost half, according to the the study, released Thursday by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske.
The study said 9.8 percent of hospital admissions for substance abuse in 2008 involved painkillers, up from 2.2 percent in 1998, reports Reuters.
The percentage of people admitted to treatment for alcohol dropped by five percent, and the percentage admitted for cocaine dropped by 16 percent over the same period, according to the figures from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
|Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske: “The spikes in prescription drug abuse rates captured by this study are dramatic, pervasive, and deeply disturbing”|
Prescription drug abuse is now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the country (behind our lovely favorite, cannabis), according to Kerlikowske, and is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.
“The spikes in prescription drug abuse rates captured by this study are dramatic, pervasive, and deeply disturbing,” Kerlikowske said, adding that the data show “how serious a threat to public health we face from the abuse of prescription drugs.”
“This really has become a true public health problem,” said Peter Delany of SAMHSA, who oversaw production of the report. “These are our employed people, making big decisions about life — ‘Am I going to get married?’ ‘What am I going to do for a living?’ ‘What’s my next job?'”
“A lot of young people, especially, don’t see these as dangerous because they’re medications,” Delany said. “It’s not safer. It’s just a different type of drug.”
Fifty-six percent of those abusing painkillers got the drugs free from a friend or relative, and another nine percent bought them from someone they knew, according to the study.
“Some of the reason is simply the increased availability,” said Thomas McLellan, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). “Our national prescription drug abuse problem cannot be ignored.”
Painkiller prescriptions increased between 700 and 1,000 percent over the 10 years, according to McLellan.
From 1994 to 2003, the number of prescriptions for controlled substances grew from 22 million to 354 million annually, according to Dr. Scott Glaser, president of Pain Specialists of Greater Chicago, reports The Christian Science Monitor.
The number of hospital emergency room admissions for misuse of prescription painkillers rose from about 40,000 in 1994 to more than 300,000 in 2008, Glaser said.
Glaser pointed to widespread practices leading to greater abuse such as easy access to prescription drugs over the Internet; people crossing state lines for easy prescriptions; street sales fueled by lax oversight; and teens selling prescription drugs to each other.