THURSDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Prescription painkillers are second only to marijuana when it comes to drug abuse, a new government report claims.
Some 22 million Americans have misused prescription painkillers since 2002, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
"Any time you have 2 percent of the population using medications like this there is a lot to do, but we are doing a lot with a combination of putting tighter controls on who can get these drugs and public education," said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
Also, programs such as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which allows doctors to track patients who may be getting painkillers from several sources, has helped get a handle on the problem, he added.
And although the misuse of prescription painkillers has remained fairly constant over the past few years, the real consequence of the problem is the number of people seeking treatment, he said.
"The number of people seeking treatment has come on faster than we thought," Delany said. "The number of people going for treatment for prescription pain drug use has quadrupled from 2004 to 2010 and we have seen a similar increase in what's going on in the emergency room."
In 2009, there were nearly 425,000 emergency department visits involving non-medical or inappropriate use of narcotic painkillers and an estimated 15,600 deaths involving these drugs, according to Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director for regulatory programs at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which is part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Some people are concerned that by cracking down on prescription drug abuse, patients who need these pain medications will not be able to get them.
Delany said these concerns must be taken into account as
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