HealthDay News — In 2016, there were an estimated 358,247 emergency department visits for harms from nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, according to a study published online March 6 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Andrew I. Geller, MD, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues collected data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project to calculate estimates of emergency department visits for harms from nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals.

The researchers estimated there were 358,247 emergency department visits for harms from nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals in 2016; 41.1% resulted in hospitalization. Overall, 50.9% of estimated visits involved patients aged ≤34 years. More than half of estimated visits (52.9%) also involved nonpharmaceutical substances, including illicit drugs and alcohol (34.1 and 21.8%, respectively). Benzodiazepines were implicated in 46.9% of estimated emergency department visits for nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals; in 6.5% of visits, they were the only substance implicated. Prescription opioids were implicated in 36.2% of visits and were the only substance implicated in 11.3%.

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“Although opioids and benzodiazepines account for most nonmedical use visits, additional substances (licit and illicit) are often involved,” the authors write. “Prescribing physicians should consider implementing specific screening to address polysubstance use and, when warranted, treatment interventions.”

Abstract/Full Text