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Originally published November 14 2010

Prescription drug addicts hit up emergency rooms for their next fix

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Prescription drug abuse is out of control across the nation. Powerful opiate painkillers like OxyContin (odycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen) are replacing street drugs as addicts' drugs of choice, and these substances are causing increasing amounts of accident-related injuries and deaths. And according to a recent ABC News piece, prescription drug addicts are now abusing emergency rooms to get their fix.

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people who visit ERs to get narcotic pain medications for non-medical reasons more than doubled between 2004 and 2008. And physicians in the ER often have no qualms about handing out addictive drugs like Adderall because they typically have little time to verify whether or not patients are in legitimate need.

"This is a huge issue for emergency departments because, unlike the office setting, the ED treatment of pain is frequently indicated without the benefit of an established doctor-patient relationship and often in an environment of limited resources," explained Dr. Jason Hoppe, assistant professor in the department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Hoppe went on to say that prescription opioids now kill more people in the U.S. than both cocaine and heroin. And by answering a few ER questionnaire questions in just the right way, practically anyone can finagle their way into possession of whatever drugs they are looking for.

And while doctors could do a better job at trying to screen patients and confirm a legitimate need, doing so on-the-fly can be difficult in an ER setting where time with individual patients is limited. So many doctors simply take patients at their word without giving it a second thought.

Some experts suggest that a cooperative database be implemented to coordinate information about prescription drug abuse to try to dissuade ER abuse. Thirty-eight states already have monitoring systems in place, and others are soon implement their own.

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