Surge in hospitalizations for prescription drug abuse

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New data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that the number of hospital admissions for prescription drug-related substance abuse increased 400% between 1998 and 2008. The latest figures add weight to concerns about surging prescription drug abuse in the U.S., and were characterized by Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, as “deeply disturbing,” Reuters reports. Last month SAMHSA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing that emergency room admissions for prescription drug overdose were on par with those for illegal drug use. At the time Kerlikowske told the Associated Press that “The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.” These latest data further underscore the gravity of the problem.

As Reuters reports, this new data shows that in 2008 nearly one in ten (9.8%) hospital admissions due to substance abuse involved prescription painkillers, an increase from 2.2% a decade earlier. The surge in prescription drug abuse is largely driven by increased availability and access, experts say, as well as a false sense of safety surrounding legal drugs.

Read the full Reuters story here.