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Misuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs rising significantly.

Emergency room (ER) visits related to the non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs increased 21 percent from 2004 to 2005 even as the total number of ER visits related to drugs and alcohol remained stable, according to a government agency.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, shows that ER visits involving the non-medical use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs increased from 495,732 to 598,542 from 2004 to 2005. Anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines, up 19 percent), prescription pain relievers (up 24 percent) and methadone (up 29 percent) were among those most frequently implicated in non-medical use.

Of the 1.4 million emergency room visits associated with drug misuse or abuse recorded by DAWN in 2005, 27 percent involved pharmaceuticals only (compared to 31 percent involving illicit drugs only). An additional 36 percent involved combinations of illicit drugs, alcohol, and/or pharmaceuticals.

About one-third of all drug-related visits involved alcohol in combination with another drug (all ages) or alcohol alone (for patients under 21). Since DAWN does not account for emergency room visits involving alcohol alone in adults, the actual number of visits involving alcohol is higher.

For more information about the study findings, visit
Emergency Room Visits for
Non-medical Use of Selected
Pharmaceuticals (2005)

Estimated ER Visits * 598,542

Psychotherapeutic Agents 275,430
* Antidepressants 61,023
* Antipsychotics 37,327
* Sedatives and hypnotics 204,711
* Stimulants 10,616

Central Nervous System Agents 305,973
* Analgesics 264,857
* Anorexiants 1,239
* Anticonvulsants 26,688
* Muscle relaxants 31,757

Respiratory Agents 26,694
* Antihistamines 5,869
* Decongestants 1,287

Cardiovascular Agents 30,246

* Numbers may not add because ER visits frequently involve
multiple drugs.

SOURCE: Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration, 2006.
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Publication:The Journal of Employee Assistance
Article Type:Statistical data
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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