(CBS News) More and more Americans are being prescribed powerful narcotic drugs when they visit the emergency department for problems such as low back pain or a pounding headache, a new study finds.
Between 2001 and 2010, emergency departments in the United States showed a 49 percent increase in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers -- also known as opiates. That was despite the fact that there was only a small increase in the percentage of visits for painful conditions.
Experts said the trend is concerning because narcotic painkillers -- which include drugs like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin -- can be addictive, or abused by people with existing drug problems. And while the drugs may be necessary for more-severe pain, ER doctors see many patients who can stick with over-the-counter pain relievers.
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