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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
May/June 2010, Volume 18, Number 3 

Emergency Visits Double for Nonmedical Use of Pain Relievers

Visits to hospital emergency departments involving nonmedical use of prescription narcotic pain relievers more than doubled, rising 111 percent (from 144,644 visits to 305,885 visits a year), between 2004 and 2008, according to a study co-released by SAMHSA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study used data from SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) and examined emergency department (ED) visits for nonmedical use of legal drugs, such as using the drugs without a prescription.

The dramatic rise in ED visits associated with nonmedical use of these drugs occurred among both men and women, as well as among those younger than age 21 and those 21 and older.

“These alarming findings provide one more example of how the misuse of prescription pain relievers is impacting lives and our health care system,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “This public health threat requires an all-out effort to raise awareness of the public about proper use, storage, and disposal of these powerful drugs.”

Specific Drugs

The three prescription opioid pain relievers most frequently involved in hospital emergency department visits from 2004 to 2008 were:

  • Oxycodone products—ED visits involving nonmedical use rose 152 percent, to 105,214.
  • Hydrocodone products—ED visits involving nonmedical use rose 123 percent, to 89,051.
  • Methadone products—ED visits involving nonmedical use rose 73 percent, to 63,629.

The numbers of ED visits involving nonmedical use of other types of prescription pain relievers such as morphine, fentanyl, and hydromorphone were lower, but they also showed sharp rises during this period. For example, hydromorphone-related nonmedical use visits rose 259 percent from 2004, to 12,142 in 2008.

These upward trends reflect in part dramatic increases in the rate at which these drugs are prescribed in the United States.

The study was co-released in the following reports:

The reports are based on data from SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) for 2004 to 2008. DAWN is a public health information system that monitors drug-related ED visits throughout the United States.

Download the SAMHSA report. Download the CDC report.


  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Promoting Wellness in Early Childhood

Promoting Wellness in Early Childhood

Project LAUNCH focuses on children from birth to age 8.


  From the Administrator  
Your Responses to What's in a Term?

Your Responses to “What’s in a Term?”

Comments are continuing to arrive in SAMHSA’s email reader-response box. Thank you! Read the responses so far.

Your Comments, Ideas, Personal Stories . . .

Your Comments, Ideas, Personal Stories . . .

SAMHSA has received more than 150 emails in response to the Administrator’s call for comments. Read selected responses.


  Health Reform  

Affordable Care Act: Implications for Behavioral Health

The Act improves services for people who have mental health and substance use disorders.



  Suicide Prevention in American  
  Indian Communities  
Helping Youth “Live To See the Great Day That Dawns”

Helping Youth “Live To See the Great Day That Dawns”

AI/AN youth are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide.

First-Person: Commitment, Hope, Community

Collaborating across tribes helped create a needed publication for AI/AN youth.



  Teens & Substance Abuse  
Adolescents Do What Every Day?

Adolescents Do What Every Day?

A day in the life may include more than texting and homework.

Tobacco Sales to Minors Increasing?

Tobacco Sales to Minors Increasing?

Sales of tobacco to minors increased nationally in 2009.

Youth Smoking & Maternal Risk Factors

Youth Smoking & Maternal Risk Factors

If a mother smokes, does that affect her teen?

Teen Smoking: New Data

Trends in young people’s smoking habits.



  Treatment  
TIP 49 in Your Pocket

TIP 49 in Your Pocket

Pocket “Quick Guides” for counselors and physicians.

By Metro Area: Treatment Data

By Metro Area: Treatment Data

Activities in 27 metro areas include Baltimore and San Diego — Metro Briefs.


  Awards  
PRISM Awards Honor Films, Television

PRISM Awards Honor Films, Television

Kudos for the realistic depiction of substance abuse and mental illness in film and TV.


  Staff in the News  
Leadership Award to Kana Enomoto

Leadership Award to Kana Enomoto

The Arthur S. Flemming Awards honors SAMHSA’s Kana Enomoto.


  Ending Seclusion & Restraint  

Organizations Making a Difference

SAMHSA honors facilities for reducing these practices.



  Drug Abuse Warning Network  
  (DAWN)  

Rise in Nonmedical Use of Pain Relievers

Emergency visits double for prescription opioid pain relievers.



  Recovery Month  
Toolkits, Posters Available

Toolkits, Posters Available

For September, planning materials at RecoveryMonth.gov.



  


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