Study Finds 70 Percent Increase in Abuse of Painkillers

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New research indicates that the number of drug and alcohol problems diagnosed by American doctors increased 70 percent between 2001 and 2009.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston blamed the rise on increasing abuse of painkillers.

According to Reuters, lead author Dr. Joseph W. Frank said:

"We know that increases in prescription drug use are a big part of what's going on nationally. I also think—in our study—the availability of effective treatment is a big part of it as well and likely drawing people into care."

Treatment with pharmacotherapy rose at a similar rate, according to MedPage Today, driven by the use of buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone) to treat opioid addiction.

On the positive side, researchers wrote that the overall use of pharmacotherapy accounted for only 15 percent of doctor visits.

The findings of the study were published in a research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meantime, estimated that 14,800 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008, three times the number of overdose deaths 20 years earlier.