Concern about the abuse of prescription painkillers has risen
dramatically in the U.S. Of particular concern is the abuse
of pain medications containing opiates (also known as narcotic
analgesics), marketed under such brand names as Vicodin, OxyContin,
Percocet, Demerol, and Darvon. According to the Drug Abuse Warning
Network (DAWN), the incidence of emergency department (ED) visits
related to narcotic analgesic abuse has been increasing in the
U.S. since the mid-1990s, and more than doubled between 1994and 2001.
• In 2001, there were an estimated 90,232
ED visits related to narcotic analgesic abuse, a 117 percent
increase since 1994.
• Nationally, narcotic analgesics
were involved in 14 percent of all drug abuse-related ED
visits in 2001.
• In 2001, approximately one-third of the
narcotic analgesics reported to DAWN were not specified by
name (32,196 mentions). Among the named narcotic analgesics, hydrocodone
led with 21,567 mentions, followed by oxycodone (18,409 mentions).
• Oxycodone mentions increased 70 percent from 2000 to
2001, compared to the 186 percent surge in mentions from
1999 to 2000. However, mentions of most narcotic analgesics did not
increase from 2000 to 2001.
• From 1994 to 2001, the
only narcotic analgesic that declined was codeine. Mentions
decreased 61 percent, from 9,439 to 3,720.
was the most frequently mentioned motive for narcotic analgesic
abuse cases (38,941), followed by suicide (24,576), psychic effects (13,949),
unknown motive (11,039), and other motives (1,727).
• In 2001, the average age was 37 for patientswho attended the ED because of narcotic analgesic abuse.
Source: U.S. Department
of Health and Human Service. Office of Applied Studies, Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2003,
January 1). The DAWN Report: Narcotic Analgesics (January