Opioid Abuse Skyrockets

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According to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of emergency room visits resulting from overdosing on opioid pain relievers has skyrocketed over the last 5 years.  The research was performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Study details

From data collected from 2004-2008, researchers discovered that such ER trips rose from 144,644 to 305,885; these numbers reflect a startling 111% increase.  The most commonly abused opiold is oxycodone; ER visits rose 152% during the 5 year period because of oxycodone, while hydrocodone overdoses rose 123% and those involving methadone increased 73%.

According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, medical director for CNN, the non-medical use of prescription drugs one of the nation’s fastest growing health problems.  CDC director Thomas Frieden told CNN:  “We urgently need to take action.”

FDA Study

One year ago, Food Consumer reported that the FDA called on the manufacturers of 24 pain killers to come up with a plan to curb the alarming abuse problem.  In early 2009, a group convened among such companies to make morphine in extended release pills harder for patients to access.  Many times drug users will chew extended release formulations to get an immediate, heroin-like high.

The FDA Ammendment Act of 2007 gave the agency the authority to regulate opioids.  In 2009, the FDA considered taking opioids mixed with Tylenol off the market, until it was discovered that overdoses of drugs formulated with Tylenol had more to do with the toxic effect of Tylenol than with that of the opioids.  The agency did, however, begin requiring black label warnings on all such prescriptions.

As a result of the FDA’s research, the agency also discovered that many people are uninformed when it comes to the toxicity of Tylenol, as well as how prevalent Tylenol is in a number of OTC medications.

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