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Prescription Drug Abuse

How many people suffer adverse health consequences from abusing prescription drugs?

Graph: Past-Year Dependence or Abuse of Psychotherapeutics Among Past-Year Nonmedical Users 12 or Older, by Gender and Age Group Annual averages based on 2002-2005

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors emergency department (ED) visits in selected areas across the Nation, reported that approximately 1 million ED visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse. Roughly 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate more than double that of 5 years prior. ED visits also more than doubled for CNS stimulants, involved in nearly 22,000 visits in 2009, as well as CNS depressants (anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics), involved in 363,000 visits. Of the latter, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax) comprised the vast majority. Rates for a popular prescribed nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid, zolpidem (Ambien), rose from roughly 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009. More than half of ED visits for prescription drug abuse involved multiple drugs.

This page was last updated October 2011

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