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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Increase in Drug and Alcohol Related Doctor Visits

Prescription drug abuse in America is an ever growing concern among health officials due to the rise of people seeking treatment. Between 2001 and 2009, the number of doctor visits for substance use disorders driven by prescription drug abuse increased 70 percent among American adults, according to a new study.

Data from two national surveys of physician visits was analyzed by researchers; findings showed that the number of visits involving drug or alcohol abuse or addiction rose from 10.6 million between 2001 and 2003, to 18 million between 2007 and 2009. Prescription drugs containing opiates are by far the biggest concern amongst health officials; due to a six-fold rise in doctors' visits for opioid abuse, from 772,000 in 2001 to 4.4 million in 2009.

Lead researcher, Dr. Joseph W. Frank of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told Reuters that he believes the availability of effective treatment may have also contributed to the increase. Frank estimated that 22.5 million Americans are dependent on alcohol or drugs. “This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation’s community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues,” the researchers wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The number of people prescribed medications to treat substance use disorders during doctors’ visits rose from 643,000 to 3.9 million during the study period. Buprenorphine and methadone were the most commonly prescribed medications. Unfortunately, such drugs act more like a band aid than stitches when it comes to actual recovery. More often than not, patients end up using, and, or abusing drugs like methadone for many years after they put down their drug of choice.

Drugs prescribed for treating substance abuse should be carefully monitored by health professionals during a period of inpatient recovery with the goal of tapering the patient off drugs like methadone before the end of treatment.

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