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Narcotic Analgesics

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Crane
Date Published
January 2003
8 pages
This document discusses the increase of abuse of prescription painkillers in the United States.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the incidence of emergency department (ED) visits related to narcotic analgesic abuse has been increasing since the mid-1990's, and more than doubled between 1994 and 2001. Of particular concern is the abuse of pain medications containing opiates, marketed under such brand names as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Demerol, and Darvon. DAWN publishes estimates for ED visits and for the number of times a drug is mentioned as being involved in an ED visit related to substance abuse. 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. Approximately one-third of the narcotic analgesics reported to DAWN in 2001 were not specified by name. Among the named narcotic analgesics, hydrocodone led with 21,567 mentions, followed by oxycodone with 18,409 mentions. Oxycodone mentions increased 70 percent from 2000 to 2001, compared to the 186 percent surge in mentions from 1999 to 2000. 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. Dependence was the most frequently mentioned motive for narcotic analgesic abuse cases, followed by suicide, psychic effects, unknown motive, and other motives. In 2001, the average age was 37 for patients that attended the ED because of narcotic analgesic abuse. Rates of ED cases involving narcotic analgesics peaked in the 26 to 34 age groups closely followed by patients age 35 to 44. 8 figures, 2 tables, 3 endnotes