Drug Abuse Linked to 1.3 Million ER Visits
new SAMHSA report shows that among the nearly 2 million
drug-related emergency department visits that occurred
across the country in 2004, almost 1.3 million visits
were associated with drug misuse or abuse.
The report, Drug
Abuse Warning Network, 2004: National Estimates of Drug-Related
Emergency Department Visits, reveals that 30
percent of the 1.3 million drug-related emergency room
visits involved only illicit drugs; 25 percent involved
only prescription or over-the-counter medications; 8
percent involved alcohol only in patients under age 21;
15 percent involved illicit drugs and alcohol; 8 percent
involved both illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals; and
14 percent involved illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals, and
alcohol (all three types of drugs in one visit).
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN),
cocaine was involved in an estimated 383,350 visits to
emergency rooms in 2004; marijuana was involved in 215,665
visits; heroin was involved in 162,137 visits; stimulants,
including amphetamines and methamphetamine, were involved
in 102,843; and other illicit drugs such as PCP, Ecstasy,
and GHB were involved with less frequency.
DAWN estimates that 495,732 visits to emergency rooms
in 2004 related to non-medical use of prescription or
over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. More than half of these
visits involved more than one drug (57 percent). Opiate
and opioid analgesics (prescription pain relievers) and
benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) were the most frequent
pharmaceuticals; they were involved in nearly one-third
(32 percent and 29 percent) of non-medical-use visits.
The most frequently used of the prescription pain relievers
were hydrocodone products (42,491 emergency room visits),
oxycodone products (36,559 visits), and methadone (31,874
visits). Alprazolam (49,842 visits) and clonazepam (26,238
visits) were the most frequently used benzodiazepines.
DAWN measures alcohol in combination with illicit drugs
for all ages, and alcohol alone in a patient under age
21, but not alcohol alone for those of legal drinking
age. DAWN estimates show 96,809 emergency room visits
involving alcohol for patients under age 21. There were
363,641 emergency department visits by persons of all
ages involving the use of alcohol in combination with
For a copy of this report, call SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse
for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1 (800) 729-6686
(English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD). Online,
visit SAMHSA's Web site at http://dawninfo.samhsa.gov.
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