Study: OTC drugs, prescriptions send more to
ER than cocaine
May 10, 2006 by Donna
Leinwand, USA TODAY
of prescription and over-the-counter drugs is sending
more people to emergency rooms than cocaine, according
to new federal data that reflect the growing popularity
of powerful painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and
data, to be released today by the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), show that
1.3 million people visited a hospital emergency room in
2004 for illnesses involving drug abuse. The
administration collects data from 417 hospitals and 106
million total emergency room visits.
four — or 495,732 — drug-related emergency room visits
involved pharmaceuticals: over-the-counter or prescription
drugs. One in five — 383,350 — visits involved cocaine.
Marijuana was involved in 215,665 emergency room visits.
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."
nationwide have shown a surge in prescription-drug abuse.
The number of addicts seeking treatment for abusing
prescription opiates, while relatively small at 63,243 in
2004, was up 62% from three years earlier, according to
data released last month by SAMHSA. About 2.4 million
people abused painkillers for the first time in 2004,
making it the drug category with the highest number of new
users, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and
drugs have become very, very popular with people who abuse
substances," says Joseph Troncale, medical director for
Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, Pa. He says
up to 30% of the patients at Caron's drug-rehabilitation
centers are being treated for prescription-drug abuse.
drugs are cheap and readily available on the street,
Percocet — all these medicines are just being handed out
like candy. I think there's too much availability,"
prescription drugs abused or sold on the street come from
pharmacy robberies, pharmacist dealers or doctor dealers,
says Mark Caverly, an investigator for the Drug