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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course The Toxicology Laboratory's Role in Pain Management: Testing for Opiates. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Pain Management: The Problem

Drug abuse, and specifically prescription drug abuse, in the United States is a huge problem. Consider the following facts taken from the US Drug Enforcement Agency's website:
  • 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs (that’s more than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and inhalants, combined).
  • Prescription drug abuse increased 80% in the past 6 years.
  • Opioid painkillers now cause more drug overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
  • Hydrocodone is the most commonly diverted and abused controlled pharmaceutical in the United States
  • Opiate overdoses lead to over 500,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year
Quest Diagnostics published a report in 2016 concerning prescription drugs found in urine. The study looked at tens of thousands of drug tests and found that 54% of all samples tested were not consistent with the physician’s documented prescriptions. In other words, more than half of urine drug screen samples were missing something that should be present, or had something present that was not prescribed.