Possibly driven by a surge in painkiller abuse, the number of drug and alcohol problems diagnosed by U.S. doctors increased by 70 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to new research.
“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,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Joseph W. Frank, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Those treatments include medications such as methadone, as well as talk therapy.
The new study, which used information from two national surveys of doctors’ visits, estimated that the number of those visits involving drug or alcohol abuse or addiction increased from 10.6 million between 2001 and 2003 to 18 million between 2007 and 2009.
Over the same span, the number of visits including a diagnosis of opioid painkiller abuse, in particular, increased from 772,000 to 4.4 million – almost a six-fold increase.
Psychiatry researcher Amy Bohnert from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor said she’s not surprised with the increase in opioid-related visits.
“It is quite a large increase and it does really highlight that this is a substantial problem in terms of this being a growing trend,” Bohnert, who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.