There was a 70% increase in ambulatory care visits for substance abuse from 2001 to 2009, with opioid-related visits increasing six-fold in this time, a study found.
Researchers analyzed a sample of nearly 9,000 visits, representing an estimated 42.2 million adult visits, from two ambulatory care surveys administered by the National Center for Health Statistics from 2001 to 2009. Results appeared in a research letter Oct. 22 at Archives of Internal Medicine.
The absolute number of visits for substance abuse increased from 10.6 million in 2001 through 2003 to 18 million in 2007 through 2009 (P=0.006). The absolute number of opioid-related visits increased from 772,000 in 2001 through 2003 to 4.4 million in 2007 through 2009. This is a relative increase of 7% of all substance use disorder visits in 2001 through 2003 to 25% of visits in 2007 through 2009 (P=0.004), researchers wrote.
Physicians prescribed pharmacotherapy in 6.3 million visits, representing 15% of all substance use disorder visits. These visits increased more than 6-fold, from an estimated 643,000 visits in 2001 through 2003 to 3.9 million visits in 2007 through 2009 (P less than 0.001). Physicians prescribed buprenorphine or methadone in 4.8 million visits and acamprosate, disulfiram or naltrexone in 1.5 million visits.
Psychosocial therapy rate did not change significantly over time, representing 59% of all visits across all time spans (P=.87).
This may be good news, researcher wrote. "Increasing recognition of previously undiagnosed disorders, improving familiarity with and use of available medications, and more frequent ambulatory care by individuals with substance use disorders all likely contribute to the trend of increasing visits over time."