According to a new study which was published last February in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, it is estimated that about 700,000 Americans visited emergency rooms due to poisoning related to the wrongful taking of prescription drugs in 2007. The estimated cost for this misuse of drugs was given as close to $1.4 billion, about 41% of which was paid for by either Medicare or Medicaid.
Aim of Study to Fight Drug Abuse
The study was produced out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, at their Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, and was done as part of their efforts to more accurately quantify the problem of and focus in on trends that could help professionals fight drug abuse.
The director of the Center of Injury Research and Policy, Dr. Gary Smith, admitted to being surprised by the size of the problem.
Rural Areas Hit Hardest
The study showed a large difference between urban and rural areas for overdoses among adults taking pain medications and psychotropic drugs. The most common age group for overdosing was the 35 to 54 range, with 3 times the number in rural areas.
Smith said that he could not explain why there was such a wide difference between urban and rural settings. It has been known, however, that at least in Ohio, “pill mills,” places where doctors prescribe large quantities of painkillers, have been of great concern in rural areas.
Children Also Victims
Among children, those five years old or younger had the largest number of accidental poisonings. In most of these cases, it was found that children were playing with medicine which was prescribed for older relatives, or else taking too much of something that was meant for them or other children.
It was noted that syrups are especially problematic as far as children’s poisonings are concerned. Dr. Leslie Mihalov, the chief of emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital said that syrups that contain acetaminophen taste good to children, and they can easily drink down an entire bottle if no one is properly supervising them.
An easy way to prevent much of the inadvertent poisoning of children is to be vigilant in making sure children do not have access to any medicines. As Dr. Mihalov said, prescription drugs should be kept out of reach and out of sight of children.
“I think the biggest problem is, elderly people or people who don’t have children in their home get those caps that are easier to open,” she said.
The problem is that children can often find medicines in Grandma’s purse, or they might fall out of Uncle’s pocket, to be swallowed by a child who does not know these things can be quite harmful.
The National Drug Abuse Warning Network believes that emergency visits due to prescription-drug abuse grew by twice from 2004 until 2008, from half a million visits to one million in 2008.
Dr. Josyann Abisaab is an emergency room physician practicing at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.