The page below is a sample from the LabCE course The Toxicology Laboratory's Role in Pain Management. 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
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 20,000 people die each year from prescription drug overdose (74% from opiates)
  • Opiate overdoses lead to 475,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year

Quest Diagnostics published a report in 2012 concerning prescription drugs found in urine. The study looked at 76,000 drug tests and found that 63% of all samples tested were not consistent with the physician’s documented prescriptions. In 40% of cases, no drug was detected where one was expected.