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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."

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. Afro

    I've been on all sorts of opiates for 15 years now. Due to the side effects when I run out, I've asked the VA to get me off. I managed to get completely off by lowering my dosage over a two month period. Now I can feel pain where I never felt it before. Abusers are just making it harder for legitimate users to obtain prescriptions. I hear Broward County Florida is the pain pill capitol of the world.. Bring money and a MRI and you walk out with tons of pills. Florida is not regulated like other states. Methadone is bad on the heart and if you are taking it, check with a physician first. There have been cases of sudden death from taking it.

    June 19, 2010 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Cynical Randy

    I really think pot should be legal. I think ALL drugs should be legal....then again, I'm all for Darwinism.

    You can't legislate safety and common sense for people...and I fully realize that sometimes mistakes happen, then the ER's there with second guessing, chin rubbing doctors.

    Try this route with chronic pain being treated by the Veterans Administration from a service connected disability!! Suddenly, you're a human guinea pig!

    I found that prescription registry VERY intriguing and WILL look into it....I'm VERY sure I'm on it. I've also got a concealed carry permit so let'em "case the joint"

    June 19, 2010 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ginamero

    When will anyone 'get it?' Any substance that alters the brain chemistry to make a person feel good about them selves or the world in general will be over used. Who wants to live daily stressful burdensome life when relief in the form of alcohol, food, drugs, marijuana, ect. is just a phone call away? And guess what? It always will be. It's the simple law of supply and demand.

    June 19, 2010 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lila

    The abuse of these drugs just makes it harder for those of us who legitimately need them to have them prescribed. I could not help but notice that the total number of actual patients prescribing the meds in question is not mentioned.

    June 19, 2010 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Yoda

    There is a flip-side to this. Everyone is different, and I have a natural very high tolerance to many drugs including opioid painkillers. I usually need 3-4 times the usual dose. News like this just makes it all the more difficult to get pain relief. I've broken numerous bones and had a few surgeries over the years and in all but one instance my pain management was completely inadequate. Time and time again I just get patted on the head or just told, "Well that should have been enough" even if I'm writhing in pain and crying like a baby. When you're in agony you don't care about SHOULD, you care about what IS. If you wake up during surgery, the doctors aren't going to say, "Well you SHOULD still be asleep, so we're just going to keep on operating..." Doctors have been caught between a patient in pain and the DEA breathing down their necks, ready to arrest them for stepping over an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all line.

    June 19, 2010 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Norma

    This prescription drug problem is not only hurting the addicts but also their friends and families. I've lost several cousins and a few friends to the opiod family. Oh, they're still physically alive, but they are so lost in the world of narcotics that to them the rest of us may as well be dead. My heart breaks a little more each day.

    June 19, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RANKSOR

    get rid of all the enablers and all the addicts will fade away

    June 19, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. debbie

    I am a 46 yr old mom and have been on a regiment of 10 mill of percocet 5 times a day for 7 yrs now and thank god for it with out i would never be able to function,o.k heres my point I am phobic about taking it on time the rare times i have taken it too early i feel a bit high and do not like it at all i do not wanna feel them i want to feel as little pain as possible! So these people who do abuse their meds are scaring me because who knows if one day soon they become unavailable because of these people. I am also dilligent about keeping them out of sight as i have a teen son and his friends do come over a lot,I am fortunate my son despises drug use but who knows? Peer pressure sux I just hope that someone somewhere finds a way to make abuse a thing of the past. Maybe a machine in the future that only dispenses the recommended dose? I dont know its reaching but who knows? Even then they would find away to get around it...

    June 19, 2010 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. lawyerscauseproblems

    The reason for a rise in prescription drug abuse are the lawyers. A main focus of health care is to make sure pain levels are adequately managed. The reason for this is that a patient will claim " pain and suffering" and then initiate a lawsuit saying their pain was not managed properly. Pain meds are handed out by doctors out to avoid unhappy patient and lawsuits. How do I know this? Because as I doctor, this is how we think and practice in today's environment.

    June 19, 2010 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. April Jones

    Wonder how many of these emergency room visits regarded as drug seekers are on Medicaid?? Another reason why drug test should be mandatory in order to receive federal aid- our deficit should see something positive if this type of misuse is regulated.

    June 19, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Betty

    It is interesting that you are now finding a problem with requiring emergency medical doctors to "treat pain or lose your medicare funding for the hospital. I retired from practice in Emergency medicine because the hospital's policy is that you can't refuse to give pain medication to some one telling you they are in pain. When we had a patient in the emergency room requiring pain meds, there was never any question about its appropriate use. However, when someone comes to the ER with a hamberger, french fies, coke, sits and watches the TV and laughs and smiles a lot, inspite of requesting 60 percoset to last through the weekend, Oh its Friday night- for a pain 10 out 10, most of us would refrain from prescribing that medication. If really insistant, one could write for 10 or 12 to get through the weekend to see a primary care physician. However, sadly many doctors don't have the patience nor the time to find out that the patient has multiple doctors and multiple prescriptions for main meds of all sorts. Usually issued on the weekend.
    It is a moral issue to me, because of the government regulation that we "must treat pain according to the patients reported levels," or 'lose medicare funding for your hospital puts the onus on the government. I don't know of any medical provider who objects to giving pain medication when appropriate, but just wanting 'enought to tide me over until Monday – use 60 in 2 1/2 days is very excessive under the circumstances I described. I would like to see the Government step in and now provide the treatment plans and facilities that have been needed for over 20 years for those folks Better idea yet, why not get
    'high' on life itself. What a wonderful gift that would be.

    June 19, 2010 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dr. Standersuch

    people abuse these drugs to kill a pain they can't define. there is a lot of pain for people to feel these days. every one wants these problems to go away, but no one wants to do the dirty work it takes to get rid of theses problems.

    June 19, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. truthy

    Someone mentioned the joint commission (JCAHO) pushing pain relief as a part of doctor evals. Guess what pool they hire from to get their inpsectors...healthcare professionals with prior drug abuse problems. They cant get jobs in the hosptials so they inspect them now!! .. and then they made "pain the fifth vital sign!"
    Its all a joke. We should have DEA agents inspecting pharmacies at least annually for prescribing patterns. If you blame the physicians for anything blame them for not being out in front on what is reasonable to treat for pain. Physicians have to raise the fictitious "pain threshold "for their patients. A knee sprain does not need powerful narcotic and neither does a toothache. Pain medication does not mean complete anesthesia it should make the pain bearable.

    June 19, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. truthy

    To the people posting posting here with chronic pain issues Here us another ugly truth:
    you have been given"waste basket" diagnoses (fibromylaiga, chronic abdominal pain, migraines, intersitital cystitis) so that your doctor can stomach giving you the medication. The diagnosis is for them! They think you're crazy also. Dont believe me..... ask them what they think of the science behind your diagnosis. Then ask them if they think your symptoms should be treated as a mental disorder instead of pain meds....... and see how fast they answer yes.

    June 19, 2010 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Herbit

    When i can't find any weed I use opiates. which is but one of the many reasons that marajuana is illegal. Our government is supposed to be By For and Of the people. But the corperations OWN our government. And they will not allow the federal gov. to legalize.

    June 19, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mike

    So ER visits for narcotics have more than doubled. Duh. You didn't need to sink a bunch of money into a a series of studies to confirm that; just ask anyone that works in an ER. It has been on the rise for the past 15 years, and has spiraled out of control in the past 5. Pain medications most certainly have their place in patient care. I don't think anyone would dispute that. The problem is with the growing subculture of people who were apparently born with a guarantee that nothing in life would hurt. How far along would this country have come if every farmer, laborer, soldier and pioneer felt like they needed to get hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of (unneeded) lab tests, scans, and drugs for every ache and pain they experienced? We'd be a 3rd World country right now, and may be heading that direction anyway. The Constitution gives us a lot of rights not enjoyed by others in this world. But it doesn't say anything about you having the right to turn every bad thing that's happened to you into an excuse to be a whiny, oh-poor-me, it's everybody else's fault that my life sucks maggot that feeds at the public trough. Get an education? Get a job?
    Why bother when you can get the taxpayers to pay you to stay home and play video games. Why spend your welfare bucks on a case of beer, cigarettes, and junk food when you can spend the day in the ER getting a $2000 CT scan for your bogus pain and a script for Lortab that you can sell to your like-minded friends and neighbors and not have to spend a dime? Eventually you can come back to the ER to be treated for the fruits of your non-labors, like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. By then you will weigh over 300 lbs and have a visible reason why your back hurts. Don't forget the advantages of having a bunch of kids you can't parent, too. And as for the argument for medical marijuana? Like other medicinals, it may have it's place. But it is also a cop-out for people who think they are owed a pain-free existence. The last thing we need is more stoners on the highway or building our schools. This country is rotting from the inside out due to our slacker mentality while China is poised to dominate the world. Drug abuse should be considered an act of treason.

    June 19, 2010 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Joe

    If you end up in a hospital o/d'ing on a prescription medication that you weren't prescribed, you should get a year jail time without question. That would help put an end to this stupidity. Teenagers talk about getting high on oxycodone like it's "cool" or something. Ridiculous!

    June 19, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Chuck

    Part of it may be the graying of the overall American population... And a medical establishment that isn't keeping up overall... I had a friend who had some major surgical complications, and, well, you develop a tolerance to pain meds... So, what does her doctor do, but send her to a "pain management" guy, who assumed that she was just doing the meds to be doing 'em... So he wrote a script for a "cocktail" that would fix everything. Only problem was that a major part of it was methadone, which has a slow onset, and slow half life. So, she took some, and was still hurting... She took a little more, was still hurting... And...

    Methadone can kill you like that.

    June 19, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Spencer

    Opiates are by far the most restricted think in America – harder to get than crack cocaine. People with real problems can't get them from competent doctors with proper instructions and care. So they cheat, steal, and buy them off the streat.
    If people with real problems could get reasonable amounts of medications without having to spend tons of money and endure countless doctor visits, they wouldn't resort to this dangerous behavior.
    You all think these problems would be solved with yet MORE regulation, but it would actually be solved with more common sense. Remember that alcohol overdoses went up during prohibition.

    June 19, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Watchdog

    Doc: "Here son–take these for pain. I get $50.00 fom the medicine companies for every 10 prescriptions I write. These are green–there'll be other colors as you get older."

    Kid patient: "But the pain is not that bad...how about strong aspirin?"

    Doc: "Who cares about the level of pain–take them so you won't cause trouble to your folks or society."

    June 19, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Chuck

    Legalizing medical cannabis would give me my life back.The side effects from Opiates are slowly killing me.It is making me a prisoner in my own home.I rarely leave the bedroom.Getting rid of Oxycontin would be the best thing that ever happend to me.The only good thing that became of all this is prior to 2003 when I was not on opiate therapy,I had diarrhea almsot every BM-quite the opposite now.I go maybe every 2 days and solid as a rock and it healthy colon s-shape.Other than that they suck.I am tired of puking and feeling sick to my stomach 24/7.Cannabis may be my Moms cure for cancer as per http://www.phoenixtears.ca watch this and see.Please e-mail/call/write your state/local/and Federal representatives and ask them to cast a favorable vote on any cannabis legislation put before them.This is my original saying"Free the weed for those in need" couldnt be further from the truth as there are those in need.Peace and One Love and may God bless you

    June 19, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tommy

    I got addicted to Methadone (for the high) without doing any research on it and I've never regretted anything more. It's a very powerful drug and the withdrawals are horrific. My parents and sister are all nurses. When I told them what I'd done and that I needed help, they were stunned at my ignorance and the concern on their faces reiterated to me just how bad I'd messed up.

    It causes a sense that 'everything is okay', a false sense of well-being and the addict tends to let important things fall by the waste side. This addiction (my actions) has caused my family and I more grief than I ever could have imagined (mentally, emotionally, physically, financially...the list goes on and on). I'm so sorry to them and everyone I hurt.

    My Doctor put me on Subutex to get off of Methadone. My Dad sent me a link to "The Thomas Recipe" recently (it's easy to find on google). It gives you options on what to take to get off of Subutex. I'm not going to try it without my Dr.'s opinion and my parents help (fortunate to have them).

    If you haven't tried it, please STAY AWAY from it! If you're suffering from it (or any other addiction), I hope you have access to the resources and will power to recover. Best wishes and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    June 19, 2010 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Boblight

    Doctors are now the No. pushers of opiates!1 Suboxone another bright idea, now just another street drug created by Big Pharma, pushed by Mr. MD .. Why the Hell is IBOGAINE illegal and Suboxone and Methadone are legal???!! Stupid Drs prescribing Legal Heroin( OXY-C) for pinky boo boos. Thank you Mr. MD for creating the next Heroin epidemic! Treatments for Opiate Addictions are Pre-historic! Holistic treatments for addiction that work are ignored because Legal Drugy Companies need to make $$ on their prescriptions.. And The FDA looks the other way, while many people die..

    June 19, 2010 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Matt

    As a nurse working in a mental health ward I've seen the affects addiction has on people and their famalies. The most common addiction is alcohol, of course it's legal and easy to come by. Opiate abuse is a hard second. But to all those calling to legalize marijuana all I have to say is your either an addict or you have never had to pick up the pieces of broken families, help neglected children, or counsel suicide survivours. Marijuana is not an innocent drug, you can and many do, become addicited to it. I've seen it. I've delt with it. As for Walther Schmit, I hope you don't drive to work or work in a field where other lives are dependant on you. I've worked in the ED as well and I could tell you some gruesome stories of what people have done under the influence.

    June 19, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Boblight

    Mr MD, please prescribe me Subutex for my opiate addition so I can ground it down and snort it!. Or trade it for other street opiates.. Or use it ti stop my withdrawel from Heroin , after a weekend of partying! Oh Mr Md, please prescribe me legal Heroin/OXY for my hemroids, so I can become addicted to it.. Oh MrS MD please prescribe me Methadone for my pain, so I can keep taking more, because the pain relief ends much quicker than poison gets out of my body. Another death due to opiates.. Thanks Mr MD for creating the next heroin epidemic!!

    June 19, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Thomas

    Hasn't anyone heard that big things come in small packages..... Is anything even natural anymore. You do not see someone growing a little opium poppy for relief. Instead there are huge corporations mass producing synthetic opiates. If you give someone an opportunity to make pain go away, they are most likely going to take it. We cannot blame drug abuse on certain individuals, but our society as a whole. Yes, people do have problems, beyond the help of pills... Sometimes they just need physical care, compassion... When it becomes easier in a society to relieve pain, than conquer it. No one benefits.

    June 19, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jerry Jones

    There is a drug on the market for people who are struggling with opiate addiction. It is called Suboxone. It is designed to block the receptors in the Brain that causes the opiate high. There are so many that want and try to stop taking pain medication for whatever reason. The withdrawal from these prescribed drugs can cause so much discomfort that very few are able to stop using on their own. Suboxone eases the effects of withdrawal and most importantly eliminates the "craving" that occurs just a few hours after the last dose of opiates. For myself, it has been a lifesaver. I fell from a roof a few years back and after trying many different types of medications my DR. reluctantly prescribed percocet. After awhile my body developed a certain tolerance and The Dr. Upped the dosage. Before I knew it I was taking more than I should have. I might also mention that I have High Blood Pressure as well. I tried to lower my dosage and acouple of times tried to stop taking the medication. Not only was the withdrawal a horrible experience, but it also elevated my BP. At a DR.'s suggestion I started on a Suboxone program. I am taking a fairly low dose but I no longer feel the need to take any pain medication what so ever. Gradually I will taper off of the suboxone completely. I have spent many hours researching this drug and so far have found no negative information regarding its use. I truly believe that God had a hand in the development of this drug. He has allowed science to develop a medication that truly does help many of us that find ourselves in this situation. I strongly suggest that if you are growing tired of the opiate cravings, and allowing your life to be controlled by the never ending battle with these types of drugs to look into this. It has saved my life and I now function as a normal person and feel as though the real me is back.

    June 19, 2010 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Wendy Ann

    One of the problems is that many Americans no longer have jobs and health insurance. They can't afford to go to the doctors and specialists that prescribe these drugs, so they are forced to buy them on the street. This is not just about drug abuse, but the lack of necessary medical care. Until people are able to afford health care, this issue will never go away.

    You may never think that you would do something like this until your financially forced to, which so many Americans are finding out.

    June 20, 2010 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. phantom

    Very dangerous stuff I have seen people destroyed because a doc wrote to many scripts. No grandma is not crazy or dieing in pain shes an addict

    June 20, 2010 at 05:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Renee

    Doctors are practicing defensive medicine. They will be sued for not treating someones "pain". That's why the abuse statistics are high. Also, when people come in to the hospital, if there is a complaint of pain, they're given Dilaudid first. Gone are the days when we would start with things like Motrin and Tylenol and work up to things like Dilaudid. Americans are sue happy when it comes to their hospitals. The Doctors are living in a world of CYA. (Cover Your Ass)

    June 20, 2010 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Anna

    Several problems with narcotic especially Morphine; why? I had several surgeries, but this morphine I did not care in the slice at all and that worried me because I was a RN and I told the surgeon "You need the aneschedlogist (sp.) because I am addicted to morphine." Surgeon laugh at me "No, you are confused."

    Baloney! Never again in this hospital in New Hampshire! Even now, I want to ask "Do you have morphine because I need it." But I never smoke marijuana, coke, heroin, etc, but I had several surgeries and Morphine kick in one I never seen: my blood pressure slow down 60/44, my urine stop for 8 hours, I don't eat because I don't feel like it at all, and I go to sleep; Surgeon is a FOOL ESPECIALLY THIS SMALL hospital in New Hampshire.

    Break the Chain of ADDICTED NARCOTIC DRUGS ASAP, especially the SURGEONS, DOCTORS, AND THE ANES (SP.). There are the CULPRIT KILLING patients as me~

    June 20, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Franny

    Never ever continue with any Physician who tells you that pain will not kill you, because that's a huge lie. Retiring after 20 years in the medical field? I've seen many Patients die from elevated blood pressure due to pain. Let's stop this big lie first, and then address why those who suffer must do so because of addicts. It's simple in testing those taking narcotics for pain in checking to see if they are abusing them, or selling them. It's called a urinalysis! I will never trust any Doctor who will not help me in my life dealing with constant pain by refusing me pain medications. Folks in severe pain who take these medications rarely get any buzz, but simply get relief. It's not the length of life that counts, but the quality, and to take away those medications that give Patients a better quality of life is indeed beyond cruel! Those Physicians who refuse to help people deal with dilbilitating pain should never have become a Physician in the first place.

    June 20, 2010 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. The Original Hag

    As a chronic pain patient suffering with Lupus, Fibro symptoms, and permanent spinal injuries from a car accident, I can attest to the miracle of a semi-normal life that opioids help to provide, when taken properly and responsibly. Without them, I would suffer horribly. True chronic pain patients are dependent upon their medications just as diabetics are dependent upon insulin. The sad part is that abusers have placed this stigma on a group of drugs that help so many people live a better quality of life.
    While I think marijuana definitely has its place among prescribed pain relievers, it doesn't work for all patients. It, like any other drug, must be evaluated for its effectiveness upon the individual patient.
    The American Pain Foundation is working diligently to help remove the stereotype that chronic pain patients are forced to live with, but it's very difficult when so many people abuse these necessary and effective drugs.
    I don't know what the right solution is, but I do know that there must be a way to ensure that people in real pain have access to adequate relief for that pain. When debilitating pain is your constant companion, getting that relief so some semblance of a normal life can be attained is incredibly important.

    June 20, 2010 at 08:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Alice

    To the marijuana advocates: I can attest to the fact that it is much better to have your parents high on pot than opiates or drunk. When they are on alcohol they tend to get violent and beat you. Opiates are just scary and you can't tell if they are dead or alive (and will the cops come and say you killed them??) but pot just makes them go away so you can live your life. There is one drawback, however. I find that pot heads don't tell the children what's going on enough so they can make sure the bills are paid on time, appointments are kept (well, we need to let the children of pot smokers drive at any age to get around the "I'm too tired today" line) etc. etc.

    June 20, 2010 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jon O

    But remember America, keep spending billions fighting off cannabis – something that is not only less socially destructive than alcohol, less harmful than tobacco, but is all natural and has proven medicinal properties without the nasty list of small-print side effects that include bowel explosion and death.

    It's not about pot heads wanting to get high, its about intellectual honesty and doing what is good for people – at least get it out their for medicinal use.

    But for the social or entertainment-user, I wonder how many people get checked into hospitals for cannabis over-dosing....

    But remember, alcohol is legal and its good for you! Cigarettes are legal and the negative effects far outweigh the positive. And every day the FDA approves another drug for "restless leg syndrome" that has a laundry list of potentially life-altering or fatal side effects.

    June 20, 2010 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Cathy

    Some countries don't use opiates to treat pain at all. I had a c-section at a first rate hospital in Mexico. I was given a non-opiate pain reliever and it worked well. The doctors here very, very rarely prescribe opiates, and when they are prescribed, it is often hard to find a pharmacy that has them on hand. On one hand, the rate of narcotics abuse is much lower. On the other, many people who are suffering from severe pain, such as after surgery, terminal cancer, and severe migraines, have to just "tough it out." How do you determine who really can benefit without becoming addicted and who is playing you for another script?

    June 20, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Boblight

    Jerry, Be very careful with Suboxone.. Many people get addicted to it, and it is as hard as the other opiates to get off.. It is not a CURE for Addiction, but a Maintanece drug which may keep you addicted for life.. Subtex can destroy your sleep cycle.. Many users abuse it , or use it for Heorin Withdrawel. Get the facts about this drug.. A better bet is a good inpatient detox/rehab, but they are expensive$$.. G&G Holistic in Miami was very effective..

    June 20, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Captain Case

      Your nuts, I've done it all and Suboxone is a miracle no doubt for me. I know all are different but Suboxone worked miracles for my brother, my sister in law and myself. Its just too bad we had to lose almost everything before we figured it out

      July 8, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  38. Cavs92

    As an ER doctor, I am very familiar with this problem. It is also why myself and other physicians have had to advocate to hospitals and health care systems to institute 'chronic pain/opiate' policies. That is, no one who has chronic pain (with exception to cancer patients) should get opiates from the ER without an objectively verifiable new injury (such as a kidney stone). Patients put extreme pressure on us to make them happy. Often they will bring their families as 'props' to put added pressure – ie, don't let mommie continue to suffer! how can you be so cruel?! And hospitals keep track of complaints about each and every physician. There is pressure on us to make them happy. Some people do require narcotic medicines on an ongoing basis, but that should come only from their primary care doctors or, better yet, a pain clinic. And for those of you who are upset about waits at your local ER, remember that as many as a third of the patients next to you taking up time and making you wait longer are there for chronic pain.

    June 20, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Kelly

    People need to know that they are responsible for there care. The doctors are doing their best but when you abuse these drugs for what they are not needed for you deprive those who need them for real. The doctors are having to make choices that are the result of so many misusing them. Just try to be there when the doctor says you need to stay in pain because some else you don't know was irresponsible. People misuse of these drugs hurt not only them but the people and families of people who are in chronic pain also. It is about quaility of life and if my spouse didn't need to take these medications he wouldn't. With all due respect don't take it if you don't need it. Life is tough enough don't make it harder for these folks and families.

    June 20, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. endometriosis... seriously come on

    OK people. This is seriously getting old. I work in a field where I deal with addicts all the time... and I am also a human being who suffers from a disease with no cure. I have tried natural treatments, internal massage (yup, you heard me right), meditation, exercise, homeopathic meds, and then real meds that work (AKA opiates). Welcome to the world of endometriosis. For those who don't know about it, basically the uterus lining that sheds once a month during a woman's period grows on other parts of the pelvis and also sheds monthly, but when it's on the intestines, pelvic wall, ovaries, etc, it basically becomes internal bleeding every month, and some months a random cyst (balloon filled with blood) will burst on an ovary. What is the pain like for 7 days out of the month (at least)? Try to remember your worst diarrhea cramps you ever had when you were sweating and felt like you were going to die on the toilet. Or, if you are a woman who has had a baby, remember those horrible contractions? Remember those, but then think about never getting a 5-minute break in between them. Now that you all may have a slight idea about endometriosis, think about what it would be like to go to numerous (about 10) specialists and doctors for an average of 7 to 12 years who NEVER diagnose you. That is reality for millions of women. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Finally, you have a surgery to diagnose you, but since you live in California and most doctors do not carry the Triplicate forms required by law to prescribe the strongest narcotics, you get sent home from surgery w/ a prescription for vicodin (which you told the doctor before surgery is a narcotic that does not even take the edge off the pain), The doctor does, in fact, have triplicate forms (which like only 40% of the CA doctors apply for because they would prefer not to prescribe schedule 2 drugs and would rather just not have that option for fear of the DEA pulling a license when a jerk ODs), but you spend an entire 24 hours post-operation in severe pain because the doctor just DOES NOT WANT TO RISK HIS JOB/LIFE only because you MIGHT have legitimate pain after abdominal surgery. Luckily, when your blood pressure rises to a dangerous level from severe pain, the doctor is kind enough to prescribe a narcotic that actually works. So, finally a diagnosis! You think to yourself that there may be no more trips to the ER where you usually hope for relief but the end result was always hearing the staff whispering about the "red-flagged" patient who is just seeking drugs... then leaving the ER with a prescription for an NSAID medication (like ibuprofen) that, not only doesn't work, but is far less safe that a narcotic that is taken as prescribed. NO SUCH LUCK. You may finally have a diagnosis and you may, after all of the years of suffering, know that only percocet relieves the pain, but when you tell a doctor that, you will be treated like a patient who has been diagnosed with a disease BUT EXAGGERATES THE PAIN of the disease to score a high. You request copies of your medical records and find that many doctors have "flagged" you as a person who is "narcotic dependent" despite the fact that you have never physically become dependent on any medication and have never had withdrawal symptoms in between the days that it is necessary to take the meds. You have been "flagged" as a "drug seeker" because, ummm, you actually were seeking "drugs" (AKA medication) from the doctors to relieve the agonizing pain so a functional life would be more than just a dream. Now, every doctor or pain program that you go to receives a copy of your medical records that OBVIOUSLY PROVES that you are a drug addict and no professional will prescribe you the only medication (which, by the way, is not an illegal drug) that works for your pain. What are your options now? Unfortunately suicide is an option often utilized, but for some reason, the media would rather focus on hyping up Opioid-phobia than pay attention to the side effects of Opioid-phobia. Suicide among chronic pain patients is not extremely rare. Death among chronic pain patients who have no access to medications, because their doctors’ license was revoked by the DEA, is not rare. Chronic severe pain untreated= higher blood pressure from the misery= stroke/aneurism. When is the media going to focus in some part on the under-treatment of pain? My guess is NEVER. This is because; it is the media, who loves to continuously print articles that perpetuate the belief that opiates/narcotics (legitimate pain meds) are the equivalent of the Devil Himself. Of course the media does not want to ever print an article that states that the Devil (pain meds) may actually allow people who suffer to live functional lives. The media definitely does not want to print an article that admits that it IS THE MEDIA who, by perpetuating these beliefs about opiates, contributes to the inadequate treatment of legitimate pain, which in turn, contributes to the deaths of people who would have lived if access to the proper narcotics was not so difficult due, in part to stigmatization of those medications by THE MEDIA. Please, next time you print an article about narcotics, give me the names and addresses of these physicians who you all claim will hand out these meds "like candy". I sure as heck have not found one. Maybe then I could find some relief. Even having to travel across the country to access one of those physicians would be better than the thoughts of suicide or buying the meds off the street. Then again, since I am considered a "narcotic dependent drug seeker" I guess those thoughts would be normal for me.

    June 20, 2010 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Chris

    "It is estimated that at least 980,000 people in the United States are currently addicted to some type of opiates."

    I believe that number is wayyy off. The US population,
    Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, is 307,006,550 as of – Jul 2009. I do not believe for a moment that there are just under 1 million opiate addicts out of that population. I am 3 years into recovery from opiate addiction and as my life improves and I find myself in increasingly better situations and away from those I used to run with – I still find that I am surrounded opiate addicts and it shocks me constantly. Someone will ask, do you have any idea where I can get fill-in-the-blank opiate and I immediately turn to my fiance and say, "nooo, not them, too!!!" It is an astounding and awful epidemic.

    June 20, 2010 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Rick

    I have been taking narcotic pain Medication for 3 1/2 years, with NO side effects. I don't know how sombody would want to abuse somthing that makes you constipated, lazy and pissed off. It hardly numbs the pain for me.....

    June 20, 2010 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. madtube

    As a young man (less than 30) that has chronic pain from a back injury resulting from a motorcycle accident, I worry about this constantly. I take OxyContin everyday for a busted spine. It was the last resort, so to speak. I tried everything, but they either had drastic side effects or did not work effectively. I even talked to my doctor because I was hesitant to take powerful painkillers. She felt that my hesitation was a good sign. She said skeptic people are more likely to heed the warnings of the drugs. I constantly ask my wife to manage my drugs, but she feels I am responsible enough to do it on my own. The drugs are powerful, and after taking them for almost a year, I fail to see why people get "high" on them. They make my nose itch so bad I rub the skin off in my sleep. Constipation, possible breathing issues, sexual issues, and many other side effects make me really wonder where the fun is. I also do not want to see idiots on a grand scale cause me to be in lots of pain until my surgery. I will manage if they get banned, but people who have legitimate pain problems may not. It is a double edged sword.

    June 20, 2010 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. darwinrulz

    As for the smokers and the rest of the druggies, @@@k 'em. Let them have their fun, their addictions, their early deaths. Leaves the world better off for those of us with a little common sense and a zest to live and thrive.

    June 20, 2010 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. MJohnson

    Since I'm living a life extremely affected by the non-prescribed abuse of these drugs by my Wife, Sister, and Daughter, I can tell you a little about how it currently works in Florida. None of these family members were ever prescribed these. They all have addictive personalities, and became quickly hooked on oxycontin after a couple of tries.

    None of them Dr shop. They get them from your traditional type of drug dealer. The only real difference is that they're not getting them from traditional, larger dealers. All three get from the same person. This person runs it like a business, She has her own prescription, and also recruits, trains, and pays others to visit multiple pain clinics that are greatly under regulated here in FL. She keeps a calander of each of her "employees" appt dates, and sends out mass txt messages to each of her customers.

    From what I understand, each one of these "employees" sees 1-9 doctors per month.They keep about 10% of what they're prescribed, make another 1-3 dollars on the pills they sell to the main dealer (some are getting upwards of 250 pills per month). The dealer makes 9-11 per pill, selling more than 3000 (yup that's up to 30k per month).

    Yes! I even contacted our county Sheriff with even more specific details than this. If I would wear a wire, that was the only way the would investigate. No desire to risk getting shot yet, but it's honestly getting close.

    I'm a big opponent of over regulation, but if patients being prescribed high class opiates were entered into a statewide database tied to the doctors and pharmacies, it would slow this drug abuse down. Florida is completely out of control.

    Signed a loving Husband, Father, and Brother, that's sick of watching 3 of the 4 most important women in my life gambling with their own.

    June 21, 2010 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. D

    My father died at 52 of an accidental fentynl overdose. I believe it could have been prevented if his physician would have clearly outlined proper use and misuse. It was a sad and stupid way for a beautiful man to die.
    Happy Father's day dad. Much love.
    ~D

    June 21, 2010 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Paul Blake, N.D.

    No one should be surprised at this trend as we have a health system that is symptom driven with take a pill answers to every disease. If a pill does not work they turn to cutting, burning or poisoning. If it was not for all the glitz of smoke, mirrors, expensive machinery and uniforms no one would use it. Over a half century of many new pills such as those for pain and not one cure, zip, zero, nada. Try telling one of them that you are going to take some vitamin C, do some cleansing or change your diet and they roll their eyes and snicker at you like you must be from another planet. We need to get back to the basics to get to the root of our diseases. What are you putting in your body, what toxins remain, what exercise do you do, where is the stress coming from and how are you doing spiritually? These are where the cures for these diseases come from and you will never find that in a pain pill.

    June 21, 2010 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Robert

    How do we distinguish between those who should have these drugs and those are just using them to get high? I have teminal cancer...do I have right to these drugs as others in the same situation as mine? It's those who are using these drugs and doctors who are prescribing them to those who really don't need them that continues to hurt those who really do.

    June 21, 2010 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Harry Hubbard

    I have been on narcotic pain relief for over 15 years and have increasingly developed a tolerance to opiates where I require more and more to affect the chronic pain. I am a real person who does not get high and only finds moderate relief from the meds. I take Methadone and Oxycodone.
    I have been labeled by doctors as an addict, an abuser and even a dealer because of the high amount of medication I require.
    It is extremely difficult for me to find a doctor willing to treat me for the real issue... 4 herniated discs in my cervical spine due to degenerative disc disease (Arthritis).
    I am now facing surgery that will involve the removal of the discs and fusion of my cervical spine. The only solution as a last resort.
    I have finally reached the last resort, and even it is not guarantee that the pain will subside as I already have nerve damage.
    When I seek a doctor to treat me I am immediately suspected as "doctor shopping" and fall into the category of criminal. The abuse by others has caused a serious problem for me, a legitimate user.
    I have learned to tolerate a certain level of pain but it is getting to the point where the pain is not worth living with. I would prefer death over pain if I can not get proper treatment.
    Hopefully, my upcoming surgery will be successful and I will be free of the pain forever... if it is not, then I will probably take the matter in my own hands. Will my death be considered drug related due to addiction or misuse? Or will it be seen as a mercy suicide?
    Chances are I will become one of their morbid statistics.
    HH

    June 21, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Kevin Monaghan

    These are supposed to be controlled substances, but they are NOT being controlled. Doctors are only required to get information from the patient if the patient is of legal age. The families know that their children/spouses have drug abuse issues, but they can't talk to the doctor stem the tide of prescriptions. The pharmacies just fill the prescriptions. The government puts people on disability or provides free insurance to the addicts. So the addicts have insurance to go see the doctor so they can go to the pharmacy to pick up their drugs. Studies have shown that many people in hospitals die every year due to wrong medications or dosages. Maybe doctors should no longer be able to provide medications. Maybe all of these deaths could be prevented.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:56 | 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.