The United States claims less than 5 percent of the world’s population. Yet, it consumes 80 percent of the global supply of opioid drugs.
Research has placed U.S. at the top of most lists assessing substance abuse. Americans emerged to be more likely than any other nation to take opiates, at 61 per 1,000 adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people die daily due to an overdose of prescription pills in the U.S.
Americans’ dependence on the drugs is a national problem and much more – it’s an epidemic.
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Opioid abuse in U.S.
Express Scripts executed a detailed assessment of over 36 million pharmacy claims from 6.8 million Americans, irrespective of age, from 2009 to 2013. Evaluations were based upon the prevalence, utilization and the associated costs during the five-year study period, including reviews of trends with regards to age, gender and location.
Key findings of the research, over the course of these 5 years, demonstrated that:
- Despite a 9.2 percent decline in the number of Americans filling prescriptions for opioids, the number of prescriptions filled and duration of medication per prescription increased by almost 8.4 percent.
- The figure of longer-term opioid users remained fairly constant, whereas the number of short-term users shrunk by 11.1 percent.
- Almost one half of patients depicted a greater likelihood to use prescription opiates long-term.
Even though the highest prevalence of opioid use was amongst the elderly, younger adults, aged 20 to 44, demanded more prescriptions.
- Opioid use was seen to be 30 percent more prevalent amongst women than men in 2013.
The greatest concentration of opioid use was established in small cities in the Southeastern region of the U.S., particularly in Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas.
- Nearly 60 percent of opioid users took unsafe and potentially deadly combination of drugs. Almost 1 in 3 patients were prescribed anti-anxiety drugs alongside an opioid. This combination of drugs causes more overdose deaths than any other.
Drug use occurrence continues to be constant around the world, according to the 2015 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Some 32.4 million people, 0.7 percent of the world’s adult population, used medical opioids and opiates such as heroin and opium.
In 2014, global potential opium production reached 7,554 tons, the second highest level since the 1930s, mainly attributed to the significant increase in cultivation in Afghanistan, the most prominent country growing opium.
As doctors began focusing on opioids for pain management, prescription opioid production experienced a boom. Over the course of 1996 to 2012, global OxyContin sales increased from $48 million to over $2.4 billion, in parallel to those of morphine and codeine.
There was a simultaneous increase in the prescriptions written for opioids in many nations. Canada experienced an 850 percent increase in the number of prescriptions written for oxycodone between 1991 and 2007.
No nation uses more prescription opioids than the U.S. In 2009, Americans consumed 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, 60 percent of hydromorphone, and 81 percent of oxycodone.
Formulating any policy to manage the use and risk of opioids has been an ongoing challenge, compounded by fluctuations in the government’s take on drug regulation, the nation’s culture of being “an overmedicated society” and the influence of pharmaceutical industry.
Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health treatment provider, devoted to the provision of evidence-based treatment for substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses. If you or a loved one is currently struggling with an opioid addiction, help is just a phone call away.
About the author
Sana Ahmed is a staff writer for Sovereign Health Group. A journalist and social media savvy content developer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana has previously worked as an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster. She writes to share the amazing developments from the mental health world and unsuccessfully attempts to diagnose her friends and family. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.