Which Misused Rx Meds Send Americans to the ER?

Which Misused Prescription Meds Send Americans to the ER?  – By Dennis Thompson – Mar 2019

Most folks treated in a U.S. emergency room for misuse of prescription medications get into trouble because they mix different substances, a new study reports.

Benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) are most commonly implicated in health crises that lead to an ER visit, followed by prescription opioids, researchers found.

But in most cases, the patients fell ill because these drugs were taken with other substances and created a dangerous interaction, said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Geller.

We’ve known from the start that overdoses weren’t caused by patients taking their prescribed medicine as directed and nothing else. 

“Most of the time there may have been only one pharmaceutical involved, but there were other non-pharmaceutical substances or psychoactive drugs or alcohol involved as well,”

“When people get into trouble with misusing medicines, they’re usually taking more than one substance.”

Misuse could involve

  • taking someone else’s medication,
  • taking a larger dose than prescribed, or
  • trying to use prescription drugs to get high,

Geller explained.

“Misuse” means doing anything other than what the prescription label specifies, and that means even taking *less* than prescribed is considered “misuse” (probably because “hoarding” spares is also “misuse”).

The researchers identified nearly 360,000 ER visits related to misuse of pharmaceuticals, the findings show.

Benzodiazepines were the primary prescription drug in 47 percent of cases, and prescription opioids like OxyContin (oxycodone) were cited in 36 percent of cases.

I don’t know if it’s good news or bad when a different drug climbs into the lead for causing overdoses.

From recent experience, I know this will be completely ignored by the politicians competing to create the most restrictive opioid policies.

“These results are consistent with other studies showing the potentially severe effects of misusing multiple pharmaceutical medications, especially opioids in combination with benzodiazepines,” said Linda Richter, director of policy research and analysis with the Center on Addiction.

Prior studies have also shown that most people who misuse or depend on an addictive substance do not use that substance in isolation, she added.

Half of the ER visits involved patients younger than 35. Despite concerns over opioid abuse among older adults, only 1 in 20 cases involved someone 65 or older.

“Before deciding to prescribe a commonly misused medication like a prescription opioid or benzodiazepine, physicians should ask a few questions to help determine if the patient currently is misusing substances,”

The study appears in the March 6 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

2 thoughts on “Which Misused Rx Meds Send Americans to the ER?

  1. Kathy Cooper

    These facts are under reported by mass media. They continuous fail to report the facts on this issue. Nearly every word in every mass media article on opioids, is propaganda, and misinformation. Using the scary opiates to market everything from acupuncture to energy healing is common across the internet, mass media, and the throw away magazines at newsstands.

    I came across this gem today, again. I guess they are promoting this article.


    The science guy did not bother to find out how many chronic pain patients had adverse events, when they underwent psychological denial of their physical pain. This article would be factual if every person in the US had a competent physician and and an actual diagnosis, before they sought a psychological “solution.”

    He refers to a systematic review, which states that these interventions have a small benefit.


    “Meaning Among older adults with chronic pain, psychological therapies have a small, but statistically significant, benefit for reducing pain and catastrophizing beliefs and improving self-efficacy for managing pain.”

    Misreporting science is big business.

    Check Out the inclusion parameters for this ‘Study.” The “results” will be extrapolated to include everyone with chronic pain, even though the subjects experienced pain for less than 6 months. Most people with chronic pain experience pain for much longer than 6 months before a surgery. People who are on Medicare or Medicaid are only considered for surgery if they have serious physical impairment, like radiculopathy. This study excludes people with radiculopathy for a reason.

    I would venture to guess that the subjects would benefit from a clear discussion of what to expect from the surgery, and what pain is normal. Most patients are treated like annoyances if they ask questions. Nothing in these studies indicates that they are factoring out the Hawthorne Effect , in fact they may be relying on it for a positive result.

    Liked by 3 people


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