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Jump in painkiller sales provoke worries about addiction, regulations

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A huge rise in the use of oxycodone over the past decade has led to increasing worries about the number of addicts and a lack of places to treat them.

Pharmacies received and dispensed around 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010, the Associated Press reported in an analysis. The increase in older patients is one reason for the rise, as are the number of veterans returning injured who need painkillers. At times, nursing facilities' oxycodone supplies have been targeted by thieves.

The number of painkiller addicts also has risen in tandem with a rise in sales of potent painkillers. In some locations, the sales of oxycodone have increased sixteenfold, with the strongest sales being in Tennessee and Kentucky. Healthcare experts also have expressed concern about an inability to keep up with the increasing demand for addiction services.

Still, the amount of time a resident may have to wait for a controlled painkiller in a nursing home has been the subject of scrutiny, with some calling for an ease in regulations.

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