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Prescription drug abuse surged 400 percent in past decade

A new White House study found a 400 percent jump in prescription drug abuse between 1998 and 2008. Experts blame a lack of monitoring programs as well as Americans' increasing unwillingness to bear even small pains.

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In a new White House study, a 400 percent jump in substance abuse treatment admissions for prescription pain relievers between 1998 and 2008.

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Prescription drug abuse is not just on the rise – it has become a national crisis, according to a just-released White House study detailing a 400 percent increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for prescription pain relievers between 1998 and 2008.

The report underscores the need for regulation amid a culture that has become increasingly reliant on ever-more-powerful and addictive prescription drugs, say experts.

The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers is now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in America “and its tragic consequences are seen in substance abuse treatment centers and hospital emergency departments throughout our nation,” says Pamela Hyde, administrator of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in a statement.

The statistics are being released to highlight a problem that has become all too familiar through the high-profile deaths of such celebrities as Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith. But the problem affects all ages and socioeconomic strata, says Dr. Scott Glaser, president of Pain Specialists of Greater Chicago.

From 1994 to 2003, the number of prescriptions for controlled substances rose from 22 million to 354 million annually, says Dr. Glaser. The number of admissions for misuse of prescription painkillers to hospital emergency rooms rose from some 40,000 in 1994 to over 300,000 in 2008, he adds.

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