In the United States, enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around the clock for one month. Prescriptions for painkilllers have nearly tripled since 1990 and fatal overdoses reached epidemic levels, exceeding those from heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the US parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these drugs. The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years. This course is designed to help the nurse understand this epidemic, the physiology of opioid abuse, treatment modalities, patient and family education, and how they can play an important role in reversing this trend.
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