Law enforcement agencies, medical providers and drug prevention organizations across the nation are battling the increase in abuse of prescription drugs. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of emergency room visits due to the misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals has more than doubled from 2004 to 2010 nationwide. That represents more than 626,000 emergency room visits in 2004 compared to 1.3 million in 2010.
In 2010, approximately one-half (49%) of these pharmaceutical misuse or abuse visits involved pain relievers (both opioid and non-opioid) and more than one-third (35%) involved drugs to treat insomnia and anxiety. In contrast, the number of ED visits involving illicit drug use was relatively stable from 2004 to 2009, and then increased by 20% from 2009 to 2010.
There were more than 1.1 million ED visits related to the misuse or abuse of illicit drugs in 2010, primarily for cocaine (42%) and marijuana (39%).
To address this trend, DAWN is calling for education efforts to emphasize the difference between appropriate therapeutic use and drug misuse or abuse, while raising awareness among first responders, such as emergency medical technicians and emergency department staff, about the possible effects of pharmaceuticals and appropriate treatments.
Earlier this year in Sacramento, the Sheriff’s Department participated in Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Partnering with the Drug Enforcement Agency, they arranged for the collection of potentially dangerous, expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction.
Participation was intended to raise awareness because many people don’t realize that medicines stored in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Not only are rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. increasing, but so is the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. The Sheriff’s Department highlighted studies showing that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet. Many people do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards.
The take-back event is an opportunity for families to make their homes safer by disposing of all unused and unwanted prescription drugs. We encourage you to participate next year.
On September 20th, U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner will present the Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Summit. This summit brings together educators, parents, community leaders, government officials, public health experts and law enforcement for a provocative and public discussion on the complex issues surrounding the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs and efforts to address this growing problem in our communities today.
NCADD Sacramento is doing our part to educate the public on the many issues surrounding the abuse of pharmaceuticals, including working with faith-based organizations and community groups to help them identify signs of abuse. Barbara Thompson, Executive Director, will be speaking at the Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Summit which will be held at the California National Guard’s Okinawa Street Armory in Sacramento. Click on this flyer for more information.