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WASHINGTON (AP) – Emergency room visits following drug use rose past 600,000 to a record level last year as heroin-related visits jumped sharply and those involving ecstasy increased more than 50 percent.

A survey of hospital emergency rooms in 21 cities showed increases in drug-related visits in seven localities and declines in two with the rest remaining about the same as the year before, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported Wednesday.

Overall, the annual report recorded 601,776 emergency room trips related to drugs in 2000, up from 554,932 a year earlier and the highest since the statistics first were collected in the mid-1980s.

“This report shows again that we face serious gaps in preventing and treating substance abuse, especially with club drugs,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

“Our first line of defense against substance abuse must be prevention. We need to reach out to people before they become statistics in emergency departments – or worse, in the morgue,” he said in a statement.

The study found a 15 percent rise in emergency room visits related to heroin and morphine, jumping from 84,409 in 1999 to 97,287 last year.

And the increase for the club drug ecstasy was 58 percent, from 2,850 to 4,511.

Drugs such as ecstasy, Rohypnol and Ketamine are called club drugs because of their growing popularity among young people, who tend to use them at dance clubs.

Cities reporting increases in overall drug-related emergency room trips were Seattle, from 8,426 in 1999 to 11,116 in 2000; Boston, from 11,699 to 14,902; Los Angeles, from 20,678 to 25,288; Miami, from 7,128 to 8,560; Chicago, from 26,158 to 30,330; Minneapolis, from 4,643 to 5,198, and Phoenix, from 8,293 to 9,072.

There were decreases in Baltimore, from 14,172 to 11,505 and San Francisco, from 8,930 to 7,857.

The totals remained about the same in other cities with visits in 2000 listed as Atlanta, 11,114 visits; Buffalo, 2,899; Dallas, 6,798; Denver 4,946; Detroit, 17,042; New Orleans, 4,664; New York, 31,885; Newark 7,749; Philadelphia 23,433; St. Louis, 6,908; San Diego, 7,094, and Washington, 10,303.

Other findings of the report:

Cocaine-related visits constituted 29 percent – 174,896 – of all drug related emergency room visits in 2000, more than any other illicit substance measured.

Significant increases were reported in Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Miami. Decreases were noted in Baltimore, Newark, Washington and New Orleans.

Heroin-morphine visits rose in Miami, New Orleans, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis. There were decreases in Baltimore and San Francisco.

Marijuana-hashish reported increases in Seattle, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver and Chicago.

Methamphetamine-speed was mentioned in 2 percent of drug related emergency department visits in 2000, rising from 10,447 to 13,513. Increases were reported in Phoenix, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego.

Emergency department mentions of prescription drugs containing oxycodone increased 68 percent from 6,429 to 10,825. One brand of oxycodone, OxyContin, has been blamed in several deaths, though it is not the only drug containing oxycodone.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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