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The Alarming Trend That Is Threatening Your Healthcare

It’s a scenario you often see on TV medical dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy or ER . . . two people come into the Emergency Room: one is an injured cop; the other is the criminal who tried to kill him. If the ER is short on help, who gets treated first? Typically, it’s the one who is most in need of medical attention, but it doesn’t always go that way (which, of course, sets up the drama for the next hour of the show).

While this may not happen as often in real life as it does on TV, there is something very real that is threatening your healthcare when it comes to over-flooded ERs.

Emergency Room physicians and medical staff have become concerned of recent days with the increase in patients addicted to prescription pain medications. Over a five year period of time, the number of patients entering the ERs with this issue have risen nearly 111%, as stated by US government researchers in June, 2010.

While there are a number of prescription medications linked to addiction problems, one of the more common drugs is oxycodone. In 2004, there was a reported 144,644 emergency room visits associated with the non-medical use of the drug. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this figure rose dramatically to 305,885 in 2008.
That’s well over two times (2x) the number in only four years!

While prescription medications such as pain killers have their place in the medical community, misuse of these drugs is causing ongoing and increased strain to the medical professional community in terms of resources used.

Simply put, with all these overdose patients flooding the ER, your chance of getting proper care is reduced significantly.

The Drug Culprits

In addition to the increased prevalence of addiction to oxycodone, several other prescription pain medications have been seen more frequently in the ER, including morphine, hydromorphone and fentanyl.

According to the CDC, a rise has been seen in oxycodone (152% between 2004 and 2008), hydrocodone (123% from 2004 to 2008) and methadone (73% from 2004 to 2008). This information was reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the CDC as they monitor drug related emergency room visits annually across the US.

Pamela Hyde, an administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recently stated that “this public health threat requires an all-out effort to raise awareness of the public about proper use, storage, and disposal of these powerful drugs.”

It’s Not All About Addiction

Treatment of both the addiction to these pain medications along with prevention can reduce the number of deaths associated. While there was an increase in the total number of patients seen with prescription pain medication overdoses, there was also an increase in the number of deaths. According to the US government, the country has seen over 13,000 deaths from fatal prescription opioid drug overdoses each year.

Who Wins?

So . . . two people come into the ER: one is your father, who’s having a heart attack; the other is a guy addicted to Oxycodone, who is in cardiac arrest due to an overdose. If the ER is short on help, who gets treated first?

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