Teens are raiding medicine cabinets to get high on prescription...

Teens are raiding medicine cabinets to get high on prescription drugs such as OxyContin, drug experts said. (April 21, 2005) Credit: David L. Pokress

The proportion of people seeking treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, is up dramatically across age groups, ethnicities and regions, according to results of a national survey released Thursday.

The survey, which compiled data from 1.8 million annual publicly funded treatment center admissions nationwide between 1998 and 2008, showed the proportion of people ages 12 and up who sought treatment for addiction to narcotic pills increased more than fourfold, from 2.2 percent to 9.8 percent.

While the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed dramatic increases from adolescent age groups up to the elderly, the spike was particularly sharp among those ages 18 to 34, where the proportion of admissions rose from about 2 percent to above 13 percent.

Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies, said the data show a long-term trend toward pain pills. "It shows there is a problem, but the good side is it also shows more people are finding treatment," he said.

The survey collected data for admissions in which patients reported narcotic pills as one of their top three most abused drugs.

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