People Love Abusing Pharmaceuticals and Going to the ER

An estimated 358,000 trips to the emergency room in 2016 were caused by the misuse of pharmaceuticals.

ER Patient / Image: VM/iStock
ER Patient / Image: VM/iStock

A recent ScienceNews article noted the troubling statistic that more than 350,000 people visited the ER due to pharmaceutical abuse in 2016. 41% of those people were admitted to the hospital, and people ages 15-34 made up nearly half of the emergency room visits. The data comes from a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, and is based on a national public health surveillance system that included 56 hospitals.

Most visits can be linked to just two culprits: benzodiazepines and prescription opioids. The former was accountable for roughly 47% of ER visits, while the latter was implicated in 36%.

“These data suggest the issue is one not merely of a single medication, but multiple substances being involved,” said coauthor Andrew Geller, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They highlight an opportunity for clinicians to screen for and address polysubstance use.”

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