The spurt in emergency department visits by people in recent years has been directly linked to people abusing prescription pain relief drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Dilaudid, recent research has indicated.

A recently study, conducted jointly by the Office of Applied Studies at the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows a 111 percent overall increase in consumption of pain drugs.

A report in US News quotes Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA, to state that the number of emergency room visits for non-medical use of narcotic pain relievers had seen a startling increase. This is a significant public health concern that calls for a review of the National Drug Control Policy's strategies, he says.

The study had used data from SAMHSA's emergency department system that examined visits to emergency departments for non medical use of prescription drugs. The spike in such visits occured both among men and women across the age spectrum from teens to young adults.

The report estimates the number of emergency room visits for the non-medical use of prescription pain killers to have risen from more than 144,600 in 2004 to almost 306,000 in 2008. While OxyContin misuse rose 152 per cent in the four years that of Vicodin rose by 123 percent while for the heroin-substitute methadone emergency department visits rose by 73 percent.

Delay says that his organization has data to prove that people were misusing prescription drugs and their rate was mounting steadily. In fact, there is a rise in the number of people coming in for drug treatment because of prescription drug misuse, he said.

Increased availability of these prescription drugs and young kids taking them from their parents' medicine cabinets is something that needs to be monitored. Officials of the SAMHSA also suggested that some people may actually be selling the unused portion of their prescriptions.