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Hospitalizations for Drug Use Up Dramatically

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 27, 2010

Medication and illegal drug-related problems put twice as many middle-aged and older Americans in the hospital in 2008 as in 1997, according to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The report looked at the use of legitimate medications, as well as over-the-counter substances and illegal drugs by people over the age of 45. The conditions requiring hospitalization included drug-induced delirium, poisoning, or overdose with codeine, meperidine, and other opiate- based pain medications and symptoms of withdrawal from narcotic or non-narcotic drugs.

"Admissions for all medication and drug-related conditions grew by 117%—from 30,100 to 65,400—for 45 to 64-year-olds" during this period, the report says.  The rate for people between the ages of 65 to 84 grew by 96% and for people over age 85, by 87%.

"This report reveals a disturbing trend, and we need to find out more about why these admissions are increasing," says AHRQ director Carolyn M. Clancy MD.

"As the average age of hospital patients continues to increase, so does the need for close monitoring of the types and dosages of drugs given to them."

Taxpayers foot most of the bill as well, the study shows. "Medicare and Medicaid were responsible for 57% of the $1.1 billion cost to hospitals in 2008 for treating these older patients with medication and drug-related conditions, private insurance covered 24% and the uninsured accounted for 14%."

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