(HealthDay News) – Emergency room data from 2007 to 2009 indicate that illicit drug abuse is decreasing, while prescription drug abuse is increasing, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, held from Oct. 13 to 17 in Washington, D.C.

Mario Moric, from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues extracted data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network database on emergency department mentions (EDMs) of drug use over a three-year period (2007 to 2009). EDMs related to abuse of prescription medications and illicit drugs were stratified by 12 major metropolitan areas.

The researchers found that, for all metropolitan areas except the Phoenix region, illicit drug abuse was consistently higher in 2007. For all regions, there was a decreasing trend in illicit drug use in 2008 and 2009. The percentage of EDMs for illicit drug abuse decreased from 36 percent in 2007 to 32 percent in 2008 and 28 percent in 2009. These decreases were larger in magnitude than the increases seen for prescription drug abuse, which trended to increase over time. The percentage of EDMs for prescription drug abuse increased from 20 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2008 and 22 percent in 2009.

“The harsh reality is prescription drug abuse has become a growing problem in our society,” a coauthor said in a statement. “We hope the results of this study will aid physicians in effectively treating patients who struggle with prescription drug abuse, as well as encourage widespread patient education about the safe use, storage and disposal of medications.”

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