On any given night in the emergency room will doctors see more illicit drug overdoses or poisonings due to prescription painkiller misuse? These days, it’s about 50/50, with abuses of opioid pain medications sending more and more people to the ER. In the past five years, ER visits resulting from non-medical use of prescribed painkillers have more than doubled.
In 2004, the number of people treated in emergency rooms was 144,644. In 2008, that number had jumped to 305,885, according to a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The most common opioid painkiller used in these ER visits was Oxycodone, a drug used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone and Methadone were the second and third most common opioids used. Misuses of all three drugs showed sharp increases.
While non-medical uses of other types of painkillers such as morphine, fentanyl and hydromorphone were much lower, misuses of all three drugs had increased over the same five-year period as the other drugs. The misuse of these drugs by teenagers and adults alike has risen over the past few years. Also on the rise, the number of deaths related to the abuse of opioid pain medications.