ER's impacted by prescription drug abuse

LOS ANGELES In 18 years of duty at Providence Tarzana's Emergency Room, Dr. Ralph Baca has seen a lot of things and one of the most disturbing trends is the rise of people abusing prescription medications. Drugs like Vicodin, fentanyl, morphine, hydrocodone and OxyContin.

"We've noticed a trend for a number of years already that prescription drugs, in particular narcotic based drugs, tend to be escalating in terms of their use in a recreational fashion," said Dr. Baca.

Chronic pain patients often get hooked on them because they can have a euphoric effect.

Government health officials say ER visits for oxycodone and hydrocodone more than doubled from 2004 to 2008. Treating people who have overdosed requires a multitude of medical resources.

"The costs that are involved with this kind of care can be extraordinary," said Dr. Baca.

Not only are people seeking emergency care for overdoses and side effects. ER docs say they come here hoping to get more drugs.

"For the patient who is addicted and simply seeking more medication it requires time and it requires counseling," said Dr. Baca.

Dr. Baca hopes state programs that monitor how many prescriptions people fill and awareness will help reverse this deadly and dangerous trend.

"As providers we need to become more vigilant," said Dr. Baca. "We need to have resources to direct these patients to get the kind of care that they need."

Health officials who gathered the data recommend prevention campaigns should continue to focus on the dangers of sharing prescription medications and methods for properly disposing remaining pills once the need for the medication has passed.

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