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Hospital Admissions for Drugs

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), an estimated 1,449,154 emergency room visits in the United States were made in 2005 involving drug misuse or abuse. DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency room visits for the entire nation.

DAWN collects data on such hospital visits on all types of drugs, including illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy, prescription drugs, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, over the counter medications such as cough and cold remedies, inhalants, and alcohol. The visits themselves may be related to an overdose, side effects from various drugs, suicide attempts involving drugs, or even those seeking treatment for drug abuse. They involve all ages, from infants who have mistakenly been given too much medication to senior citizens.

Some of the highlights of the DAWN report for 2005 include:

  • The most common abuse of illicit drugs includes cocaine, marijuana, heroin and stimulants such as amphetamines or methamphetamines-in that order.
  • A full third of all drug misuse/abuse emergency room visits were related to drugs used in combination with alcohol.
  • An estimated 598,542 emergency room visits were made for nonmedical use of prescription or OTC medications or dietary supplements. Over half of these visits involved combinations of drugs.
  • The top two prescription drugs used were hydrocodone/combinations and Oxycodone/combinations.
  • Other popular prescription drugs of abuse were anti-anxiety agents and sedatives (sleep medications).
  • The most commonly abused OTC medication was cough and cold preparations with the ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM). Like prescription medications, these incidents were often in combination with other drugs or alcohol.
DAWN surveys are conducted in order to spot trends and direct public education. For publications and additional information about DAWN, go to http://DAWNinfo.samhsa.gov