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June 17th, 2010
09:20 PM ET

Opiate-caused ER visits skyrocket

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the most common poisonings treated in emergency departments in the United States, are caused by misuse of opioid pain medications.  It is estimated that at least 980,000 people in the United States are currently addicted to some type of opiates.

So it's no surprise that a recent study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found a 111 percent increase in emergency room visits involving non-medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers.

The increase happened over a five year period. Looking at statistics from 2004 to 2008, the estimated number of emergency department visits linked to non-medical use of prescription pain relievers rose from 144,644 visits to 305,885 visits a year, more than doubling the amount of cases. The study used data from SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network emergency department system, which examines emergency department visits for non-medical use of legal drugs, such as using them without a prescription.

Study authors also noted age and gender were non-factors. The dramatic rise occurred in both men and women, as well as among those younger and older than 21.

"The abuse of prescription drugs is our nation's fastest-growing drug problem." exclaims Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske.

Three prescription opioids stood out as drugs most frequently used in these emergency cases. Oxycodone (used for severe to moderate pain) incidents rose 152 percent. Hydrocodone (powerful analgesic/cough suppressant) products were up 123 percent and Methadone (strong analgesic/chronic pain) episodes rose to 73 percent. All three are medically prescribed to treat moderate to severe discomfort, but many times are used for getting high, leading many people to overdose on them.

Interestingly the numbers of emergency department visits involving non-medical use of other types of prescription pain relievers such as morphine, fentanyl and hydromorphone were lower than the prior drugs mentioned, but they also showed sharp rises during this period Investigators say these upward trends reflect in part dramatic increases in the rate at which these drugs are prescribed in the United States.

"We urgently need to take action," says CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
"Emergency department visits involving non-medical use of these prescription drugs are now as common as emergency department visits for use of illicit drugs. These prescriptions medicines help many people, but we need to be sure they are used properly and safely."

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soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. Robrob

    Oxycontin abuse is not just limited to the Rush Limbaugh's of the world. Teenagers learn from their friends how to raid Mommy/Daddy's medicine cabinet. Recreational use quickly leads to addiction – it's an *opiate*. Soon your once vibrant child is a pale, sunken, scab covered pill popper. High School junkies.

    Eventually they graduate (or at least turn 18) and have to leave home. Unable to beg, borrow or steal pills ($40 each) to support their habbit (2-3 pills a day) they turn to *heroin*. It's cheaper and more easily found in the streets.

    Goodby to college and goodby to the future. Hello to dying in the street with a needle in your arm.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. TYC

    The day will come when only the wealthy and privileged will be able to have access to pain killers. In order to stop the someone from getting high or potentially harming themselves, the rest of us will have Calvinism visited upon us. it will be proclaimed and made the law of the land that it is our duty to suffer for the good of society.

    What's next? Eugenics for the betterment of society? Reading these comments, it appears that Eugenics is what these people want.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Kerry

    This angers me. I need pain meds due to chronic pain after lung cancer surgery. I guess people will do anything to get high. I have never misused my meds nor do I plan on it. I have never been "High" on my meds. I personally wish I did not have to take pain meds but without them the pain would be intolerable.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. David Miller

    sounds like scare tatics, Now since all these people are getting sick and the cdc is trying to cut back on pain meds their will be more people without meds that use them correctly.Now little info people who take mental health meds need to know that takeing an allterative can and will mess with your mental health meds and the only thing safter is opiates, please understand just because someone eles is fu@#$%$ it up does not mean everybody is doing this.Now myself had a strest test yesterday blood pressure was and during the whole test 245/115 and they said that i was ok nothing eles was needed this is the truth i live in a town thats cutting back on people with goverment ins. under35 now if they let me go on with this i will be dead at age42 thanks alot florida newyork texas chi town los angeles and every big town that didn't getv a grip on this . now mabe i'll go to hospist and prepare to die thanks to the goverment for not getting a gripand anotherthing if were buying pills from inda why aren't why makeing them here in the usa common sence once agian thrown out the window like everything eles thank you for listening

    June 18, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. CCIEinNC

    I have suffered from low back pain and surgeries since the age of 22. I have been put though all of the diagnostics, FCE's and I am a patient of a Pain Management facility for the last 9 years. Due to the nature of my rupture it has left me in pain due to the nerve damage and scar tissue challenges of having surgery. I live where two of the most renowned hospitals in the nation are and one of them did my surgery and did a darn good job being I was paralyzed prior to the procedure.

    The net net to my story is I have taken the entire range of medicines and today take Vicodin four times daily and led a semi productive life. My medications are counted every month and I have never exceeded the dosage. I think this is about the doctors having the backbone to do their duty to do no harm, but at the same time treat their patients with respect and what is in their best interest. I am a mere 40 years old, 1/2 of my life has been in chronic pain but yet I can function and contribute to myself, family and society thanks to excellent concerned doctors and doing a lot of research on my own.

    Pills have never killed anyone, it is the person putting them into their mouths making a poor choice.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Peach

    The irony is that I would suspect many of these ER visits are not caused by the opiates themselves, but by the massive doses of acetaminophen they put in to deter abuse – obviously that doesn't work too well.

    As with the last poster, I agree that the backlash of underprescribing is horrible for real pain sufferers. My own fiance suffered a perforated ulcer and went through 8 hours of agony before he got surgery, all because he didn't have insurance and had to take up to 50 tylenol a day just to be able to work. And if you think that makes him stupid, well, some of us would rather take risks with our bodies than live in a shelter.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Carlie

    I endured a private hell going through withdrawal after being treated for over three years with MS Contin. I pursued treatment for chronic pelvic pain, kidney stones and finally an appendectomy. I stopped taking the medication after my surgery and continued with tylenol only. It was approximately 3 – 4 days later that I began with the vomiting, skin crawling, unable to sleep, sit or concentrate on anything. I went to the Emergency Room and told them I felt I was experiencing "withdrawal" symptoms. I had titanium staples from my pubic bone to above my belly button, explained my history, and I was told by the doctor that he felt I had the flu! I saw my surgeon that afternoon and he agreed with me. He introduced pain medication again, and I was still horribly sick 3 days later. My primary care physician called and set up for me to see a Pain Management Physician. He admitted me to a rehabilitation center for three days. I attended group meetings while I was there. I was weaned over a 4 month period with a medication called Buprenorphine under his direction. Pain needs to be treated appropriately. There are times where opiates are necessary to treat pain. What people need to realize is that your body adjusts to this medication over time. The longer you are treated with these narcotics, the harder it is for your body to adjust. When you decrease or stop the medication, your body doesn't know "what it's supposed to do" or "how it's supposed to react to pain". Dosages need to be lowered gradually. These medications need to prescribed by doctors that are specialized to treat chronic pain issues. May God Bless and grant you peace to those addicted to narcotic pain medications. It's as though you are a prisoner in your own body. If you truly have pain, seek help from a Pain Specialist. If you are abusing these medications, seek help. Find out why you need the "escape". If there is something in your life you are trying to "suppress", deal with that aspect. Pain medication to "numb" the psychological pain IS NOT THE ANSWER.
    To the gentleman with the comment on the Prescription Monitoring Program.....this program IS necessary to prevent diversion. Members of our society protest it because they are angry that they can't pull the wool over ER doctors eyes anymore! The supply is getting shut off! That's why abusers are angry! Society is overcome with dishonest people, including some in positions of authority. That is not why the PMP program was instituted so that those in a position of authority can "seek" you out and steal your supply! It's put in place to prevent diversion! Shame on those that caused this to be necessary! If you want to be angry at someone, be angry with those that caused this mess in the first place with their dishonesty. Can you imagine your loved one not having an ambulance available or an ER doctor not able to attend to your loved one because the patient in the next bed over from them is giving the doctor some "falsified" story so they can get their "fix". The PMP program is in place to prevent that "dishonesty" and potentially HELP someone that indeed "has a pattern" of behavior that they may be able to get someone the help that is really needed instead of giving them an endless "road to no where" except a brick wall. It has to end somewhere.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. bad billie

    As I read these comments it's obvious that you are all over the map, but not getting the point. I could write a book about this because I have lived in all or these circumstances. 1, You will not get addicted to marijuana simple fact 2 These opiates are insisidious due to the fact that they help with pain, problem being is your body begins to increase your toerance to dosages over time, so instead of abusing you just need more to find a comfort level, Oxycontin and Oxycodone are notorious for this type of reaction to use, and by the time you realize that you went thru a months worth of medication in two weeks you are in trouble.Methadone is a drug that combats pain, but also helps with the downside of over use.But it's a dangerous drug if used in conjunction with other drugs, and sadly they are killers if you don't know how to take them, ask a doctor, who will send you to a pain specialist about using methadone. I am convinced that this is what killed Anna Nicole Smith. Any opioid will become addictive if taken long enough, from Vicodin to Oxycontin and all the drugs in between, and I guarantee that your body will get to the point where you can't get enough because of the tolerance your body will have when using them. The person that is using 480 mg...you are in a bind, and you need help. I have been there and was taking just as much as you, and I was a junkie, no two ways about it. I'm betting that the drugs beat you up more than the pain you are trying to overcome. I came to that point and I quit cold turkey on Dec 31st 2008. I did not go to rehab and refused to try and ween myself, because in my case it's all or nothing. It was the most miserable time I have ever had. I have had three surgeries where I woke up during the procedure and that was not as bad as getting off of that Oxycontin. It's up to the individual, you have got to want to quit, if ya think a pill here or there you are failing, you have to want to get back to normal or your fooling yourself, but no one else. If you are not a tough person don't try and deal with it yourself, go to rehab. I watch the A&E program Intervention, and I am puzzeled as to how a few months of being there makes you clean, but it seems as though there are a lot of relapses on that program. Sorry Candi, but that's the truth. The way I worked it was like the rabbit and the hare. Everyday that I stayed clean was a day closer to getting right. And that will work for anyone in that situation, you are striving to get healthy and the results are tangible everyday you keep the course. I haven't taken any opiates since that New Years Eve. I am back to normal I think, however, one doctor I see says it will be 18 months before I am truly clean, whatever. I don't believe doctors like I used too. If you want to quit you can, it's not easy or pretty.But the bottom line is this, you let yourself get like this, and it's much tougher getting out. Do not feel guilty, even tho' there will be those kind of days, and just remember every day you don't take a pill is one day closer to getting back to being you. To the jerk that thinks it's costing him money, dude, you have never had debilitating pain, your time is gonna come. As for now, no narcotics or mild pain killers,but marijuana is what comforts me when it hurts, I broke my back, and now have 6 crushed discs and three fractured vertabrae and my sacrum get kinda cockeyed so one leg is shorter than the other occasionally. To the guy that mentioned marijuana be legalized, you are right on the money.It's just that the war on drugs is so far out there and all these creeps that have a job keeping America free from Reefer Madness are crazy.....but that could be another book unto itself....To all of you that are "strung out" you can get the gorilla off your back, you just have to want to get it off your back and you will succeed

    June 18, 2010 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Don24601

    PEOPLE W/OUT INSURANCE HAVE ONLY DRUGS TO COPE WITH PAINFUL UNTREATED MEDICAL CONDITIONS AND NO DOCTOR TO CONTACT FOR ADVICE. To fix this we have to fix our health care, and what was passed isn't going to do it. Not until ALL HUMAN BEINGS are entitled to equal quality health care will this problem stop growing. The REAL problem here is the cruelty of leaving these people without medical treatment.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. john brinks

    this problem with people abusing prescription medications would lessen if the federal government would repeal prohibition and tax and regulate cannabis for adults over 21. you never hear about people having to go to the ER for pot overdose, cause you simply cannot ingest enough to ever OD.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Angus_MacL

    I am so allergic to any and all opiates that my pain management specialist is scratching his head trying to figure out what he can prescribe for my excruciating, totally systemic chronic pain. All opiates make me itch like a thousand mosquito bites without any reduction of pain– perhaps the mere suggestion of dulling the severity. Med pot does no good for me, more's the pity, since I don't have to worry about job-related UA's; I can't work the way I am now. At least I know I'm not a candidate for addiction to opiates!

    June 18, 2010 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jerry

    I have an elderly great-aunt who suffers from terrible back pain due to bone disease and there is no operation or physical therapy that can help her. She walks with a cane and/or walker and is healthy otherwise. Does she not deserve pain treatment, which involves these drugs. I say, YES! She too, has wound up in the emergency room due to overdosing from her pain meds, but it's not because she's a drug addict. None of the doctors warned her not take additional oral meds while on the Fentanyl patch. Luckily, she was brought back to life after she stopped breathing. After that, she learned a hard lesson and has tried to get along with as little pain medication as necessary, but she is still in terrible pain.

    Doctors play a roll in this, too. Often, they do not want to manage a chronic pain patient and many pain management centers don't do a good enough job. Not everyone who takes pain medication is an addict, so please don't categorize everyone in that fashion. There are many who desparately need pain meds on a daily basis due to severe chronic pain. Then there are the idiots out there who abuse the stuff and they are the ones hurting the chronic pain patient population the most.

    Jail them and their docs, I say.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Tinius Olsen, Sr.

    I find articles like these extremely irritating, as they always focus on the irresponsible addict prone sector of society and then legislate draconian laws to restrict and or possible deny responsible users of these drugs from the only treatment that makes life tolerable for sufferers from chronic pain. There are those of us who consider responsible use of a narcotic pain medication preferable to epidural steroid injections and surgery, both of which carry no guarantee and can cause long-term problems far worse then the proper use of opiate drugs. If a loved one has died from improper use of a drug, I am sincerely sorry but do not limit the use of an otherwise useful medicine based on people suffering from psychological problems. For those who want to use this as a platform for legalizing marijuana, please just leave – as you are just muddying the water.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Iconoclast

    While the abuse of prescription medications is certainly an issue I consider it strictly a medical issue. I will always advocate for the elimination of the DEA, drug laws, and unwarrented government intrusion into our lives and rights. Sorry folks, but addiction is a medical issue to be addressed between the abusers and the doctors. These medications do serve a very real purpose and give true pain relief to many people. You better pray to God they are still available for you when the time comes(and it will come) and the government and all those other well meaning but confused institutions haven't taken them away from you or your loved ones. It's time we approach social issues with maturity not regulation.

    June 18, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Chuck

    I am seen by a DO of Pain Management.I was first started on fentanyl patches.I was working on a huge dose of that when they decided to try Avinza Morphine and I was still hurling from that.Then the Doc decided he wanted me to try Oxycontin after all that.I only pray every night that cannabis get legalized in Ny for at least medical use.I belive everyone 21 or over be able use cannabis privately w/o fear of arrest.If I could use straight cannabis for my diagnosed illnesses,I could stop almost every prescribed medication in my cabinet.Cannabis saved my ife and there is no two ways about it.I lost over 150lbs vomiting and being unable to eat.I subsisted on KozyShak Tapioca pudding for 3 months,as it was all I could eat w/o hurling.Finally I said enough and started to use cannabis for medication.Guess what? It worked.My wife is RN who doesnt agree w/my cannabis use.However she'll be the 1st to tell you she has seen it work w/her own eyes.Cannabis is smart medicine for the 21st century.The USA needs to be honest w/its citizens and say "We made a mistake" until then nobodyusing cannabis as medication will be truely safe from the fear of arrest.The fear of arrest makes me a little more ill every day.

    June 18, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Nameless

    First: What was the increase in population during the same period? Absolute numbers without some reference to the general population are meaningless.
    Second: Was there a general increase in the usage of emergency room services during this period?
    Third: Are individuals more likely to seek medical help for an overdose of these medications than previously? Has the usage and subsequent need for medical intervention really increased?
    Forth and somewhat aside: Why is addiction less desirable than being in pain? Given a choice I would choose pain free addiction over pain.

    June 18, 2010 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. truthy

    The problem is that the opiates have become street traded currency. Even if every doctor stopped prescribing tomorrow opiates would remain on the streets due to online pharmacies. Look in every small town where there is an epidemic and I garuntee you there is an independent phamacy making a living filling these prescriptions or an online shipment with a fly by night physician doing screening medical exams online. If you want to stop it then every opiate DISPENSED needs to be tracked and the DEA should monitor it.

    June 18, 2010 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Kraznodar

    Easy cure – refuse treatment if they don't have a prescription.

    June 18, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. truthy

    The original driver for the problem is the false classification of chronic pain patients For these patients the attempts to pressure the medical community to accept unfounded explanations has led to the household distribution of controlled subsances to teens which is triggering the epidemic. Its time to face simple plain truths : 1. there is no disease called fibromyalgia 2. disability insuance is not a retirement strategy 3. addiction to pain meds CAN be worse than accepting that depression can have somatic effects.

    June 18, 2010 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RabidinL.A.

    Sadly, just how big pharma wants us, addicted and wanting more. I just hope they keep their evil hands off MM. I'm with you, mrnatural, I'd also like to see statistics on the preponderance of marijuana overdosing.

    June 18, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. betawolf

    ... and then there are those of us who actually benefit from this kind of therapy. Let it be recognized that those who CHOSE to over medicate or experiment outside of the proper medical circle do so on their own. It is not my fault that little johnny oh poor me is having issues in his/her life. People will always abuse that which brings momentary numbness, legal or illegal
    I hope the medical world does not panic over the high numbers, there are just more of us now.
    Please think before you decide to start pulling meds off the market because parents don't pay attention to their children or adults decide to over do it ... the majority of us need it to just get through another day without pain.

    June 18, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jonathan

    I visit these care facilities nearly everyday...give the people marijuana , let them be happy and painless at the same time..Incredibly idiot people try to act like marijuana is such a bad thing....when all the tiem it is the very best thing there is in the medical field..period...

    June 18, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. John Doah

    When I was having trouble with my back and having to get a steroid injection in my tail bone; it was all I could do to get through to the next injectiion as only three per year is what I could have...it worked but not for that long of a period...I went to one physical therapy session and that was all that the tech thought I would need...after an episode of not being able to sit, stand or walk and an injection the dr gave me morphine slow release...I eventually started going to dr's for any and all pain. Well my primary care dr never even blinked an eye when I told her what I needed or what I thought would work...I was getting addicted along the way...drug fiend behavior insued. I was finding people who had their medications and said I lost mine or got stolen...lieing, cheating, stealing. My dr at my request gave me 90 oxycodone and I took them all in a little over 26 hours...I realized how crazy this was and quit that day and went through withdrawls on my own...something I will never do again...My point here is that this is a huge problem and I was part of it not more than 7 months ago....Something needs to be done...People who use it and those around them have no clue sometimes...dr's look the other way until it is possible that is could come back to bite them...

    June 18, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. jim

    I dont understand why the majority of the people here are blaming the doctors. This is how america functions today, instead of people taking personal responsibility for their actions they blame the doctors. It is completely impossible for a doctor to tell the difference between someone with legitimate pain and a well informed drug seeker. Fibromialgia was mentioned here, a condition often treated with opiates. It is a mental condition and there is absolutely no way for a doctor to test whether or not the patient is actually suffering from it. Should doctors stop prescribing pain medicines all together? If you really believe that then you have never had a family member in chronic severe pain. It enraged me when I found out my grandfather was only being given 5 mg percocet/day during the 5 months he spent in the hospital prior to his death. He could not get out of the hospital bed because of his backpain, developed a baseball sized bedsore on his lower back that went all the way to his bone, couldnt control his bowel movements, had quadruple bypass and a heart valve replacement. Because of the blame the doctor mentality we americans (especially democrats) have, the doctor was too scared to give him more than 5 mg. The doctor forced him to suffer through half a year of hell when if he had been given a reasonable dose could have been bearable. Anyone saying opiates should be outlawed have never seen real pain and I invite them to refuse opiates when they are on their deathbed.

    June 18, 2010 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Rose

    Prescription drug abuse has indeed risen. It is a combination of doctors and the person taking the pills. My daughter got hooked on Lotas. The first doctor that prescribed, gave her 60 for an injury to her knee and it was not a sever injury. 60 is too many. Her dentist over 5 mos – 600 lotabs, and who is to blame. 1.) Doctors over prescribe; 2) we should not be making narcotic addictive drugs; 3) we need new laws and regulations. Really, if you think about, we humans are pretty stupid, but the pharmecutical companies are making money like crazy and the doctors get a kick-back for prescription they write. Soon we will fall under a dictatorship, because we cannot control ourselves and we abuse freedom. It's coming...wait and see.

    June 18, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Steve O

    My Dr. prescribes a lot of pain meds to me. I'm not going to say how much. but with out it I could not function. I am a victim of 2 drunk driver accidents so my back and my neck are messed up. I have a steady job with a great company. If they knew the amount of and the dosage I could be let go. But for my size and weight my Dr feels it is appropriate and he has written several books on the issue. The fact is I have been taking these for a long time and I would hate to think of what my life could be like if they are regulated and I am forced to reduce my dosage or be cut off altogether.

    June 18, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. jim

    Dear jerry, the one saying that your great aunt was never informed not to take additional meds while on a fentanyl patch. I find this incredibly unbelievable. The vast, vast majority of doctors will have a indepth conversation regarding the risks of strong opiates before they give them out. The absolute first thing a doctor would say is to not take additional pain meds. Secondly by law there is a nice pamphlet that comes with every single prescription anyone ever gets that lists the risks and drug interactions of the prescription. Now I am not necessarily blaming your great aunt as she is probably quite old for not reading piece of paper that came with the fentanyl patch that clearly says do not take additional pain medicine as death may result, but to say she was never informed of the risk is ridiculous. If you do not read the pamphlet that comes with every prescription drug and you make the personal decision to self medicate without first consulting with your doctor than you are gambling with your life and have nobody to blame except yourself

    June 18, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. linuxg33k

    If I remember correctly we used to use heroin in our cough medicine – drug use should be okay as long as it's not drug abuse.

    June 18, 2010 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. SB

    America is a nation in pain, undertreated. Doctors are afraid and people are suffering. I'd rather have some folks being addicted than to go without medication that frankly is necessary for me to live.

    June 18, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Brian

    Doctors are damned if they do and damned if they do not. The JCHAO insists that patients be assessed over and over again for pain. A rating scale of 0-10 is used. (10 being the worst pain imaginable). The problem is that so many people state they have 10/10 pain thinking it will make their situation seem more serious and get them more urgent care in an ER setting or in a hospital.Much of the same goes on in outpatient settings. The docs and nurses are obliged to treat this pain or it looks as though the patients are being neglected. Thus pain meds are way over-prescribed and over used.

    June 18, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. BH

    So all you people out there that think the legitimate patients are the problem, what should people in pain do, rub dirt on it? I guess we're not as tough as you want us to be. Accidents and debilitating conditions that used to put people in wheelchairs or hospital beds are being fixed with modern surgical techniques that provide mobility and self sufficiency to thousands of people who would otherwise be completely supported by your tax dollars. Unfortuantely, in many of those cases, there is residual chronic pain that has to be managed. Thousands of people are very fortunate, and live normal lives because of these drugs. The problem is that idiots steal them or scam them to take in doses 3-4x what is generally prescribed in order to get high. This has nothing to do with marijuana, heroin or the government. It's selfish morons who would otherwise be showing up at the ER for huffing nail polish or paint. We'll always have those. Maybe the number is increasing because nobody parents their children anymore, and waits for the government to do it for them.

    June 18, 2010 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. GloriaSeattle

    There was a reason opiates were classified as illegal in the early 20th century in the US – the benefits of opiates pale in comparison to the illness of addiction and misuse. Doctors from the 1930's would be amazed that the pharmaceutical companies got around the law prohibiting them from being dispensed by physicians. Well, they'd also be amazed at our whole political/lobbyist structure, another story.....

    June 18, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Chuck

    No such disease called fibromyalgia? You friend are very wrong .It is not a mental condition.You may want to get better informed.There are days I cannot even roll out of bed.When a major low pressure system comes sweeping in,I'm in deep schist.Fibro is characterized by 17 or more tender points called TRP that you must have a reaction to or you will not be diagnosed with fibro.I have fibromyalgia x myofascil pain syndrome from having 13 major orthopedic surgeries in 10 years.Now my pain system shoots off non stop even though all the injuries were surgically repaired.And the jama has said that marijuana is the best drug to be used for fibro and for diabetic nueropathy,of which I suffer from both.As I am an insulin dependant diabetic,on top of those other maladies.Please write/call/e-mail your local and state and federal reps and demand cannabis be rescheduled and regulated so that millions will not suffer needlessly.

    June 18, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Saox

    I recently had surgery and had to endure too much pain post-op because I think the dr and staff were being overly cautious. They finally prescribed Oxycontin for me to take for 5 days and I don't get the addiction. I felt nothing but slight relief.

    June 18, 2010 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Eric

    To Rose, I agree with your first point; opiates are being over prescribed. I totally disagree with your second point. The increase in unnecessary pain and suffering for those that truly need medication that would result from their elimination is unconscionable. I don't think you'd hold that opinion if you watched a parent or child die in the needless excruciating pain of cancer. On your third point, I agree but probably not in the way that you meant. As has been mentioned so often in these posts, marijuana is very effective for a variety of symptoms for which opiates are now (over) prescribed. It needs to be legalized, but I doubt big pharma is going allow that. Even though it has many legitimate uses at which it excels and there have never been any marijuana overdoses, our government will continue to bow to special interests and keep up the Reefer Madness based policies it has followed for the last seventy three years. At least until pro-pot lobbyists with bigger pockets that big pharma show up.

    June 18, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Barbara

    Drug addiction is on the uprise and the misuse of prescribed subtances is a hige dilemna Further addicts misuse rehab programs It takes 10 rehab stays before 1 addict stays clean and then relapse looms This is a waste of public fund After 3 uses of public money cut to the chase and refuse funds and mandate jail time this is a crime hidden in a disease and it is dragging America down I have worked in rehab cenetrs and the funds are widely misused Addicts even use on site Medicare should demand drug testing and refuse repeat prescriptions and stop payment for drug abusers and criminals The chronic pain patients should not have meds managed ANYONE other than pain management doctor this will limitbthe all to frequent habit of doctor shoppingh and NO refills without a face to I had one addict brag he had 39 rehab stays and made his living on this at sober houses and hopsitals he had not poaid rent for 3 years He was essentially a ward of the reahb cycle! Lets face visit this is criminal to taxpayers the meds are paid for by theft and misrepresentaion for the most part STOP THE INSANITY! DRUG DEALERS NEED STRONGER SENTENCES!

    June 18, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. maria

    Doctors get accused of becoming drug dealers when they prescibe narcotics. If they don't give narcotics, they get accused of not respecting patient's right to pain relief/control. We're damned if you do and damned if you don't prescribe the stuff.

    I've known doctors who get bullied by patients to prescribe them 3-months supply of narcotics in a 1-month prescription even though that's illegal. These patients threaten to go to the state medical board or hospital administrators to complain about them, that they are being mistreated, disprespected and not getting adequate pain control. Next thing you know, the supply of narcotics is being sold at the local flea market or street corner, still in the prescription bottle with the doctor's name on it. These patients pay $15 co-pay for 1 month's supply and sell it for 300-500% profit.

    June 18, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Walther Shmit from Oregon

    I overdose on marijuana every morning before I go to work. Trust me, it's better for everyone that way.

    June 18, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Terri

    This makes me mad. Because of these people that do abuse prescription meds I can not get the pain medication from my doctor that I need because he is afraid he will either get in trouble or I will misuse them. I have two ruptured discs in my back and have to suffer with the pain. There are times when I can barely walk due to the pain. I am sure their are many people who are in the same boat as I am in because of the the overuse of pain meds

    June 18, 2010 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Winston

    The only thing (besides pot) that keeps me from even TOUCHING a pain pill (opiates, antidepressants, antianxiety) is the memory of the withdrawl after tapering down for 4 months. I was sick for a week (flu-like symptoms) when I dropped the first 25%. The middle 50% had zero effect and I thought I was almost in the clear...but that final 25% was sheer hell. It took part of me with it and I'll never go back to that feeling. Done.

    June 18, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. evensteven

    Pain meds, like any medicine can either be used appropriately or abused. My spouse has chronic pain and needs the meds and does not abuse them and I support her having to take them. Many people however, take pain medications to self-medicate and make themselves feel better emotionally.

    Americans in general are very depressed and we are in huge denial of that. Many of these people overdosing on pain meds are candidates for anti-depressents and anti-anxiety meds and would do better taking those than overdosing on opiates which can actually contribute to depression.

    June 18, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ellen

    Michael Jackson's doctor gets to keep his license? Enough said.

    June 18, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Auditor

    Working as an auditor for State Government I found that some clients receiving Medicaid and Medicare would go to several different doctors willing to prescribe these drugs at the clients request. The State and Federal Government picked up the cost of the meds. The recipients would then sell the pills on the street for money. In short, the State and Federal Government was unintentionally funding this method of drug trafficing using taxpayer money. A frequent occurance of selling these drugs on the streets is performed by Mom's with small children in the car at local Wal-Mart, gas station and shopping mall parking lots. Who would suspect them? Recommendations were made to program certain audit control features into the computer systems to identify possible abuses, not only by the Medicaid and Medicare recipients, but of the doctor's prescribing high percentages of the drugs to repeat patients. Additional recommendations were made for each community to establish joint task forces made up of Family and Social Services staff, Medicaid and Medicare payment processing staff, local law enforcement, and government auditors to share information. It is a simple concept. Follow the money, find the fraud, cut the funds, stop the abusers and drug trafficers, send fewer to the emergency room, save lives, and help direct taxpayer money to more worthy causes. Desperate people do desperate things. As the US population of those living at or below the proverty level who are receiving government assistance increases, and the cost of shelter, food, clothing increase, these types of situations will increase. We can not let the low income starve, yet we, as taxpayers, in some situations, are enabling the addicted, paying for the cost of their emergency room care, and, unfortunately, indirectly contributing to the death of some by drug prescription overdose. It is not just some of the rich who abuse prescription drugs. Stars like Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith had their own system for obtaining perscription drugs. The number of recipients on Medicaid and Medicare far out number the movie stars, and the aggregate dollar amount they receive to cover their health care needs is stagering. If the abuse of prescription drugs is our nation's fastest-growing drug problem, then it makes sense why Medicaid, Medicare and health care costs are the fastest growing expense. Taxpayers wise up. This problem will not be stopped at the top levels of Government. It needs stopped in your own backyard! When you see the exchange of money for a pill, report it! A $5.00 pill sold by one million drug pushers equals $5,000,000 in taxpayer money....going into the pockets of drug pushers every day! I want my money back!! But more important, I want the senseless deaths from perscription drug overdose to stop. Do you?

    June 18, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Kevin

    I curse the day I was prescribed pain killers for kidney stones. It's been a downward sprial ever since. Those things are so bad, they shouldn't be legal.

    June 18, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Mareeh

    What is the percentage of people showing up in the ER due to Marijuana overdose? 0 to <1%? yet marijuana is illegal and these opiate based drugs are legal and are given out by Emergency Room Drs and private practice Drs like they were candy. Something is terribly wrong with this picture. It is an injustice to those that prefer to use something more natural without all the ill side effects. Is it because perhaps at this time there is no profit for the pharmacuetical companies when people choose to use marijuana over opiate based drugs?

    June 18, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Jason Larsen

    Well, whatever we do, we need to keep marijuana illegal, and not allow it for medicinal use, it is better to prescribe deadly opiates for pain and turn everyday folk into addicts, addicted to a physically addictive drug such as synthetic heroine. Thank god for opiates, down with marijuana!

    June 18, 2010 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Michael

    Again many of these serious cases are due to acetaminophen, which has serious, hepatotoxic effects with overdoses (and alcohol complicates this further). An opiate overdose can be treated relatively easily if at all required with such a weak opiate like hydrocodone. Some of the weaker opiates are scheduled C III because they are only available in formulation with acetaminophen or in combination with other drugs. This regulation has now put into question. I believe the drug control agencies are trying to fade out the acetaminophen/hydrocodone combinations partly because of this and also because of the possibility of acetaminophen overdoses when these prescription medications are combined with OTC acetaminophen.
    ML

    June 18, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Pain Patient

    Responding to:

    "In fact, I believe the FDA issued a warning several years ago about using methadone as a first-line analgesic. It's difficult to predict the pharmacokinetic profile of methadone compared to sustain-released OxyContin."

    I have chronic pain, but am in a catch-22 with respect to insurance for medications. A 30 day supply of Methadone is $9/month. A 30 day supply of the extended-release Oxycontin is over $300. For individuals such as myself who cannot afford the $300+ / month, the Methadone provides pain-relief over a 24 hr period.

    Its ashame people are abusing these medications - I don't know what the answer is, but it is likewise important to remember these medications benefit many. As a result of keeping my pain under control, aside from scars from multiple surgeries, I live an active and productive life.

    June 19, 2010 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. NickW

    I agree with the poster who said that the real problem is the addictive nature of some people's personalities. Some people will find something to get addicted to; if it's not one thing, it's another.

    Opiates when used responsibly are a blessing. I've had kidney stones for 20 years, more episodes than I can recall. In the three worst cases, 9mm stones obtstructing, the only thing that gave me relief was dilaudid - morphine didn't even make a dent in that pain. I will tell you that after each of those emergency room visits where I was given dilaudid (three episodes spread out over five years), I found myself craving that drug, but common sense and reason prevailed, and I never pursued trying to obtain it. After a week or two, the craving went away.

    Interestingly, dilaudid was the only drug that had that effect on me. Over the years, I was prescribed numerous strong pain killers to take home. I would take them for one day, maybe two, then stop. The last few times, I used only Motrin; didn't touch the hydrocodone; they're stil in the container. But, I would never want to deprive anyone from the ability to receive Dilaudid in a hospital setting. It provides blessed relief from agonizing pain.

    June 19, 2010 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Ben

    I see that when the prohibition of alcohol was in full gear, it made things worse and it didn't do anything to change how the people felt in reguard to quiting in fact the urge to get drunk was hightened and it even added to the excitment of breaking the law. Now that drinking is as normal as breathing and any store hurting for cash will sell to anyone these days. So why is it so surprising to anyone that when you here about opiates destroying someone lives that we are supposed to drop what we are doing and scream "OH! NO!" I for one know that opiates are used and distributed and even given away by the government that tells us citizens not to grow opium or take it or sell it unless it is ok'd by the almighty uncle sam first. I say that opium is a medicine passed down from generation to the next. There is nothing bad about opium, it is a good thing. It saves lives and kills pain. The only thing on the rise is prisons and half the people in them don't belong there. Legalize street drugs and watch what happens. regulation, better laws, and better choices. They said the same thing about alcohol and yet we are all still good people. Putting people in jail is a multi-billion dollar business. Drugs on the street worth more than that.

    June 19, 2010 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.