WASHINGTON – According to newly-released national data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), visits to emergency rooms involving misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals have exceeded visits involving illicit drugs for the third year in a row.
In 2009, there were about 1.2 million visits involving pharmaceuticals, compared to 974,000 involving illicit drugs. In 2007, these numbers were approximately equal. Emergency visits involving illicit drugs have remained stable at just under 1 million per year from 2004 to 2009, while visits involving pharmaceuticals have risen steadily from 627,000 in 2004 to 1.2 million in 2009 – almost doubling [or a 98% increase] over a 5-year period. These visits do not include adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals taken as prescribed.
“The data released by SAMSHA today reinforces what data has been showing us over and over again this past year—the fact that prescription drug abuse is serious, deadly, and a growing problem”, said Gil Kerlikowske, National Drug Policy Director. “These dramatic increases in emergency department visits involving pharmaceuticals underscore the need to double-up our Nation’s effort to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse”.
The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy outlines several steps to address what Director Kerlikowske calls “the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States”—prescription drug abuse.
The National Drug Control Strategy provides a blueprint for reducing prescription drug abuse. Parents, law enforcement, the medical community, and all levels of government have a role to play in reducing prescription drug abuse.