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Deaths From Prescription Opioids Misuse Reach Epidemic Proportions
- Updated: October 14, 2015
Overdose deaths from the misuse of prescription opioids have reached epidemic proportions in some areas of the United States. Overdose deaths of prescription opioids have increased to 7.8 per 100,000 people, nearly doubling its former rate of 4.5 per 100,000 people.
Between 2003 and 2013, the number of people reporting using prescription opioids of reasons other than medical necessity declined, according to a new study. During the same time period, incidences of overdoses related to the drugs increased.
Survey data from 472,000 people was used for the study. The participants reported unsanctioned opioid-related use between 2003 and 2012. The researchers also studied national vital statistics related to cause of death for the same time period.
Over the ten year period studied, non-medical opioid use declined to 4.9 percent from 5.4 percent. However, the rate of use disorders increased to 0.9 percent from 0.6 percent during the same time period, rising to 16.9 percent of opioid users from 12.7 percent. The number of participants reporting using opioids for more than 200 days also increased substantially.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Beth Han of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says that the results of the study underscore the need for more attention to be paid to the epidemic of overdose deaths sweeping across the nation.
During the 2000s, prescription opioids were widely prescribed by doctors to patients need pain management solutions. The addictive tendencies of these drugs were less understood back then.
Today, a number of laws have been put into place to restrict access to these drugs for all but the most needy patients. The formulation of some of the drugs in the category has been changed to make it more difficult for addicts to abuse them. Recent efforts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the availability of prescription opioids and study safe prescribing practices have included $20 million in grants to 16 states.
Solutions for lowering the rate of prescription opioid related deaths include effective training programs for doctors to reduce inappropriate opioid prescribing, developing safer treatments for pain management, and making naloxone, a lifesaving opioid overdose drug, more widely available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has developed an Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit to help medical providers reduce the risk of death from an opioid overdose.