Between 2001 and 2009, the number of doctor visits for drug and alcohol abuse rose 70%, according to a new study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Joseph W. Frank of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Frank says there are approximately 22.5 million Americans who are alcohol or drug dependent.
Dr. Frank and his team of researchers analyzed data from two national surveys of doctor and hospital visits. They found that the number of visits that involved drug or alcohol abuse increased from around 11 million between 2001-2003 to approximately 18 million between 2007-2009.
The doctor believes the increase was largely due to the rise in prescription drug abuse in the United States over the past decade. The researchers state, “This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation’s community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues.”
The research also showed that the number of people who were prescribed medication to treat substance abuse disorders during doctors’ visits increased from about 640,000 to roughly 3.9 million during the period of time being studied. The most commonly prescribed medications were methadone and buprenorphine (suboxone).