New Study Shows Fourfold Increase in Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Involving Non-Medical Use of Prescription Narcotic Pain Relievers in Ten Year Period (1998-2008)

Large increases in the percentage of admissions reporting pain reliever misuse seen among all age, gender, race, ethnic groups as well as in all regions of the country

The proportion of all substance abuse treatment admissions of those aged 12 and older involving abuse of prescription pain relievers rose by over 400 percent from 2.2 percent in 1998 to 9.8 percent in 2008 according to a new study be the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

This dramatic rise in the proportion of admissions associated with the abuse of these drugs occurred among nearly all segments of the population regardless of age, gender, educational level and employment status.

For example, among men the proportion of treatment admissions involving the misuse of prescription pain relievers rose from 1.8 percent in 1998 to 8.1 percent in 2008, while among women the proportion of admissions due to misuse increased from 3.5 percent in 1998 to 13.3 percent in 2008.

Similarly, among those with an eighth grade education or less, the proportion of admissions involving misuses of prescription pain relievers jumped from 1.9 percent to 9.7 percent; while among those with more than a high school education, the proportion climbed from 3.8 percent to 12.1 percent during the same time period.

The upward trend also held true among admissions for which medication-assisted opioid therapies, such as methadone or buprenorphine, were planned. 

Since 1998 the proportion of medication-assisted therapy admissions involving prescription pain reliever abuse tripled from 6.8 percent to 26.5 percent.

Other growing problems associated with the misuse of prescription pain relievers were recently highlighted in a SAMHSA study released last month which found that emergency visits to hospitals involving the non-medical use of prescription narcotic pain relievers more than doubled between 2004 and 2008.

"The non-medical use of prescription pain-relievers is now the second most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the nation, and its tragic consequences are seen in substance abuse treatment centers and hospital emergency departments throughout our nation" said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

"This public health threat demands that we follow the President's National Drug Control Strategy's call for an all out effort to raise awareness of this risk and the critical importance of properly using, storing, and disposing of these powerful drugs."

"The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) Report released today highlights the significant public health challenge posed by prescription drug abuse," said R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

"These findings should serve as exclamation points to punctuate what we already know -abuse of prescription drugs is our country's fastest-growing drug problem, the source of which lurks far too often in our home medicine cabinets. Reducing prescription drug abuse is a top priority of this Administration's 2010 National Drug Control Strategy, and requires collaboration across the medical, prevention, treatment, and enforcement communities."

"Our national prescription drug abuse problem cannot be ignored.   I have worked in the treatment field for the last 35 years, and recent trends regarding the extent of prescription drug abuse are startling," said A. Thomas McLellan, Deputy Director of ONDCP. "We must work with prescribers, the pharmaceutical industry, and families to help us fight this scourge."  

The study, Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Involving Abuse of Pain Relievers: 1998 and 2008, was based on data from SAMHSA's Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) - a reporting system involving treatment facilities from across the country.  The study was developed as part of the agency's strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality - an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues.

The full report is available at: http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/230/230PainRelvr2k10.cfm. 

It can also be obtained by calling the SAMHSA Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). 

For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/.

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