Emergency room visits linked to abuse of prescription painkillers have jumped 111 percent in five years, straining the nation’s public health system, a recent study revealed.
Urgent action is needed to address this health threat, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.
“Overdose with prescription drugs is one of the most serious and fastest-growing problems in this country,” he said.
Visits to hospital emergency departments for abuse of pain drugs more than doubled between 2004 and 2008, jumping from 144,644 to 305,885 visits annually, according to a study released last month by the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The dramatic rise occurred among both men and women, as well as people younger than 21 and those who are older.
“At the federal level, we need to look at action to target pill mills that distribute large amounts (of such drugs),” Frieden said. “There are law enforcement interventions that are needed there.
“At the state level, states need to look at the prescribing laws and ensure that they’re strong enough.”
Electronic record-keeping systems should be used to identify duplicate prescriptions and stop people from filling the same prescription multiple times, Frieden said.
“Doctors really need to not write prescriptions for more than is needed,” Frieden said.
“We may need to look at things like whether long-acting pain medication should ever be prescribed out of emergency departments.
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