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Study Finds Rise in Prescription Opioid Misuse and Death

Oct 15, 2015

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the abuse of prescription opioids increasing. Although researchers found that non-medical use decreased between 2003 and 2013, use disorders and overdose deaths increased. The study was led by Dr. Beth Han of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), who said "The results underscore the importance of addressing the prescription opioid crisis," according to Reuters.

The study involved survey data from 472,000 people who reported their nonmedical use and use disorders associated with opioids between 2003 and 2012. Although the rate of nonmedical use decreased from 5.4 to 4.9 percent, the rate of use disorders increased from 0.6 to 0.9 percent. Dr. Lewis Nelson of the New York University School of Medicine and coauthors called the decreased "a hopeful finding" in an accompanying editorial.

The authors also wrote that the rise in use disorders and misuse may indicate that "more patients are experiencing an inexorable progression from initial opioid use to frequent use," National vital statistics indicate that drug overdose deaths related to prescription opioids increased from 4.5 to 7.8 per 100,000 people. Between 2003 and 2013, the proportion of opioid users with a use disorder rose from 12.7 to 16.9 percent.

Han cited an Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit developed by SAHMSA, Reuters reports. "It offers ways that medical providers, people who use opioids non-medically, and others can recognize the signs of an overdose and effectively reverse it with naloxone (a lifesaving opioid overdose drug)," said Han.

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