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Buprenorphine Use Related to Significant Rise in ER Visits

Filed February 4th, 2013 admin

There has been a significant increase in the number of emergency department visits related to the opioid addiction medicine, buprenorphine.

The number of emergency visits due to buprenorphine increased from 3,161 in 2005 to 30,135 in 2010, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study used data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network reports which were conducted between 2005 and 2011. Buprenorphine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of opioid addiction in 2002. Since that approval, an increasing number of doctors have been prescribing it to their patients, medicalnewstoday.com.

In 2005, only 5,656 doctors prescribed the medication to a total of 100,000 patients. By 2010, 18,582 doctors prescribed buprenorphine to 800,000 patients, medicalnewstoday.com. According to the study, 50 percent of the hospital visits in 2010 were non-medically related, of which, 59 percent involved the use of other pharmaceuticals such as benzodiazepine, pain relievers and illicit drugs, medicalnewstoday.com. Men made up 66 percent of visits and patients between the ages 24 and 34 were the largest represented group of visits for non-medical uses of the drug.

Buprenorphine can be dangerous if taken improperly. In 2010, there were 2.3 million emergency visits because of health complications associated with improper use of the drug. In an effort to lower the rate of buprenorphine abuse, federal government bodies have already implemented safety measures, including providing physician education and medication guidance.

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