Prescriptions, Over the Counter Drugs Sending High Numbers to the ER
> 5/10/2006 10:20:32 AM

Today the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) released the findings of a study that looked at emergency room visits for all of 2004.  According to the results, there has been an increase in visits related to the use of over the counter and prescription drugs.

The data show that 30 percent of the 1.3 million drug-related emergency room visits involved only illicit drugs; 25 percent involved only prescription or over the counter medications; 8 percent involved alcohol only in patients underage 21; 15 percent involved illicit drugs and alcohol; 8 percent involved both illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals; and 14 percent involved illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals and alcohol, all in the same individual.

495,732 visits to the ER involved non-medical use of prescription or over the counter medication, and of these nearly 60% involved more than one drug.  News outlets, like USA Today, are making a big deal of the fact that this number far exceeds the 383,350 visits that involved cocaine.  But as other recent surveys, including the Monitoring the Future study, have shown illicit drug abuse has not shown the same disturbing growth trends as prescription drug abuse.  The USA Today article quotes one expert:

"We need to see a real focus getting the message out that just because something is prescribed or over-the counter doesn't mean it's not harmful," says SAMHSA administrator Charles Curie. "We want to recognize that medications prescribed by a doctor and taken exactly how the doctor prescribes can work wonders. But if it's not prescribed for you, if it's not taken the way it's intended, it's a recipe for disaster."

Certainly, the ER is not the venue that we want to be addressing the drug issues of our country.  These types of visits add an unnecessary strain to already thin ER budgets, not to mention the overall harm to the health care system.  The SAMHSA press release is sure to note:

“Most of the 1.3 million visits to emergency rooms involving drug or alcohol misuse or abuse are an opportunity for the health care system to intervene and direct patients to appropriate follow-up care,” SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie pointed out. “President Bush is proposing an expanded Access to Recovery program so that people who seek treatment will have more choices and be able to obtain treatment that works for them.”

The goal should be treating these individuals before they arrive at the ER.  Unfortunately, this is the first time that anyone in the health care community will have contact with those who are abusing these drugs.  What needs to come out of this and other warnings is an understanding that these issues of prescription and over the counter drug abuse need to become part of the nationwide discourse and prevention efforts for drug addiction.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy