Violence against nurses and other medical professionals appears to be increasing around the country as the number of drug addicts, alcoholics and psychiatric patients showing up at emergency rooms climbs. Nurses have responded, in part, by seeking tougher criminal penalties for assaults against health care workers. "It's come to the point where nurses are saying, 'Enough is enough. The slapping, screaming and groping are not part of the job,'" said Joseph Bellino, president of the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, which represents professionals who manage security at hospitals. Visits to ERs for drug- and alcohol-related incidents climbed from about 1.6 million in 2005 to nearly 2 million in 2008, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. From 2006 to 2008, the number of those visits resulting in violence jumped from 16,277 to 21,406, the agency said. Nurses and experts in mental health and addiction say the problem has only been getting worse since then because of the downturn in the economy, as cash-strapped states close state hospitals, cut mental health jobs, eliminate addiction programs and curtail other services.