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ER visits show upward trend in meth use

— Hospital emergency rooms are often the places where the impact of the latest drug craze is seen first. Drug users who overdose, or experience serious side effects, are taken to emergency rooms for treatment.

Twin Cities emergency rooms have seen their meth-related visits more than double from 1995 to 2002, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS' Drug Abuse Warning Network collects data on drug-related emergency room visits in 21 metropolitan areas throughout the United States. The numbers are seen as an estimate of emerging trends of drug abuse in the U.S., although they are not an actual measure of frequency of drug abuse.

In 2002, there were an estimated 670,307 emergency room visits related to drug abuse in the U.S. That's about 261 visits per 100,000 population. Four illicit drugs -— cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine -— accounted for 36 percent of the drugs involved in these visits.

Cocaine was the most frequent illicit drug involved in drug abuse-related ER visits in 2002, with an estimated 199,198 visits nationally. Marijuana-related visits were next with 119,472 visits; heroin was involved in 93,519 ER visits nationally; and methamphetamine was involved in 17,696 drug abuse-related ER visits in 2002.

The highest rates of methamphetamine ED visits were found in western and Midwestern metropolitan areas, including San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

In the Twin Cities, the typical meth abuser to show up in and emergency room is white, male, age 18-25.

(Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

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