Over 90 Million Americans Used Prescription Opioids in 2015

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No wonder there is a national problem with opioid use. A contributing factor has to be that almost 92 Americans used opioids in 2015. Many of these people misused the medication, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In a new research paper published by the NIDA, experts found:

According to the study, based on data collected from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, close to 92 million people (38 percent) used prescription opioids in the prior year. Of these, about 11.5 million misused the drugs, and 1.9 million had an opioid use disorder. Most people (63.4 percent) who misused these medications reported doing so to relieve physical pain. About 41 percent who misused opioids obtained them for free from a friend or relative. Misuse is defined as use of a medication without a prescription, for a reason other than as directed by a physician, or in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed.

In a study published last October in the journal Medical Care, the price of opioid misuse was pegged at $78.5 billion a year. Almost all these costs were for medical treatment and insurance. Almost $8 billion was costs to the criminal justice system. A worse but impossible to quantify financially problem was that opioid overdoses that result in death have reached record levels. Commenting on the research, CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., MPH said:

More than 40 Americans die each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Families and communities continue to be devastated by the epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses. The rising cost of the epidemic is also a tremendous burden for the health care system.

The figures are much, much worse in some sections of the country. These are primarily concentrated in rural areas and the South, according to a CastLight study titled “The Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce.” Abuse is also worse among Americans who make less than $40,000 annually, where the rate of abuse is 6.3% of the population. That is twice the rate of people with incomes over $85,000.

These are stark numbers, and there is no evidence in any of the research that the problem is getting better.