Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, and hydrocodone is sending more people to emergency rooms than is cocaine, says a report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) quoted by USA Today. Some 1.3 million people visited a hospital emergency room in 2004 for illnesses involving drug abuse. One in four – or 495,732 – drug-related emergency room visits involved over-the-counter or prescription drugs. One in five – 383,350 – visits involved cocaine.
Surveys 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 percent from three years earlier. 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, says the National Survey of Drug Use and Health.