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Hospitalizations for Poisoning From Prescription Drugs Rise

From 1999 to 2006, hospitalizations involving opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers rose 65 percent

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitalizations for poisoning from prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2006, according to research published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Jeffrey H. Coben, M.D., of the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, and colleagues analyzed 1999 to 2006 data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, focusing on poisonings from drugs, medicines, and biological substances using ICD-9-CM standard diagnosis codes.

The researchers found that, during this period, there was a 65 percent rise in hospitalizations for poisonings from prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers, which was double the increase in hospitalizations related to poisonings by other drugs and substances. The greatest increase in number of cases involved poisoning by benzodiazepines (10,379 more in 2006 than 1999); the largest percentage increase was for methadone (400 percent). Compared to other substances, people hospitalized for prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers were more likely to be women, over the age of 34, and presenting to an urban or rural non-teaching hospital.

"This increase mirrors the trend observed in mortality from prescription drug overdose during this time period, and may point to an opportunity to intervene to prevent subsequent mortality. Although the majority of these hospitalized poisonings are classified as unintentional, substantial increases were also demonstrated for intentional overdoses associated with these drugs, likely reflecting their widespread availability in community settings," the authors conclude.

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