Abuse of meds sends as many to ER as illegal drugs

ATLANTA (AP) - For the first time, emergency room visits from the abuse of medicines have become as common as those from illegal drugs.

According to a new government report, ERs in 2008 saw about 1 million visits from the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter medicines - mostly painkillers and sedatives. That was about the same number of visits from people overdosing on heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Health officials are not sure why painkiller abuse is increasing so dramatically, but the number of prescriptions has been increasing.

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