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Stimulant-related emergency department visits in U.S. rise 300 percent among younger adults

Posted August 26, 2013

A new report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that some drug- related emergency department visits increased by 300 percent — from 5,605 visits in 2005 to 22,949 visits in 2011.  These visits, made by adults aged 18 to 34, were related to the nonmedical use of central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. On average, about 30 percent of these visits also involved alcohol.

In 2011 there were approximately 1.24 million emergency department visits related to the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, which include prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as supplements.

“Nonmedical use of any drug, even an over-the-counter drug, can be dangerous, but these CNS stimulants can potentially cause significant and lasting harm, including heart problems and addiction,” said SAMHSA Chief Medical Officer Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D. “We must raise awareness of thi s public health risk and do everything possible to prevent it.”

CNS stimulants featured in this report include prescription drugs, such as those used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; other prescription medications, such as benzphetamine and modafinil; and over-the- counter products containing stimulants. Illicit stimulants, such as methamphetamine, were not included in the study.

The nonmedical use of CNS prescription drugs is linked to heart and blood vessel problems, as well as to drug abuse or dependence. When combined with alcohol, CNS stimulants can alter the perception of intoxication and can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related injuries.

SAMHSA funds grant programs in communities across the nation aimed at preventing the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.  Among programs and organizations that SAMHSA actively supports are the National Prescription Take-Back Day and the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE). These programs and resources help get people to turn in their unused prescription medication and provide a comprehensive range of educational and outreach messages to the public.

The report,entitled Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of Central Nervous System Stimulants among Adults Aged 18 to 34 Increased between 2005 and 2011, is based on findings from the 2005 to 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports.  DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits and drug-related deaths to track the impact of drug use, misuse, and abuse in the United States. The complete surv ey findings are available on the SAMHSA Web site at:

Source: SAMHSA

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