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Data show opioid-related problems worsening, while overall use drops

October 14, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Although the overall prevalence of non-medical use of prescription opioids in the United States appears to be decreasing, problems associated with such use appear to be intensifying overall.

An article published Oct. 13 in the Journal of the American Medical Association cites data from federal researchers showing increases in the prevalence of opioid use disorders, high-frequency use of opioids, and overdose deaths. The latter increase was particularly dramatic, moving from 4.5 deaths per 1,000 people in 2003 to 7.8 per 1,000 in 2013. Data for the analysis, culled from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, were reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Among adults ages 18 to 64, the rate of non-medical use of prescription opioids decreased from 5.4% in 2003 to 4.9% in 2013, the researchers reported. Prevalence of prescription opioid dependence or abuse increased over that same 10-year period, from 0.6% to 0.9%. The prevalence of high-frequency use of prescription opioids, defined as at least 200 days of use in a year, increased from 0.3% in 2003 to 0.4% in 2013.