Visits to hospital emergency rooms involving the misuse or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs have doubled over the past five years and, for the third year in a row, exceed the number of visits involving illicit drugs, say new data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
There were 1.2 million visits by individuals to hospital emergency rooms involving pharmaceutical drugs in 2009. This compares to 974,000 visits involving illicit drugs in 2009. Additionally, while visits to emergency rooms involving illicit drugs have remained relatively stable at just under 1 million visits per year from 2004 to 2009, visits involving pharmaceutical drugs have almost doubled – increasing by 98 percent over the past five years. “Prescription drug abuse is our nation's fastest-growing drug problem, with shocking consequences measured by overdose deaths, emergency room visits, treatment admissions, and increases in youth drug use, said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.