CDC: Opioid Overdoses Have Reached Epidemic Proportions

Overdose death rates, sales, OPR-related treatment admissions increased between 1999 and 2008

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Opioid pain relievers (OPR) are involved in most drug overdose deaths; and OPR-related deaths, sales, and treatment admissions have increased in the last decade, according to a report published in the Nov. 1 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Leonard J. Paulozzi, M.D., from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues described the state-wide use and abuse of OPR in the United States between 1999 and 2008. They analyzed the rates of OPR overdoses (including prescription OPRs, illicit drugs, or only unspecified drugs), non-medical use, sales (to pharmacies, hospitals, and practitioners), and OPR overdose related treatment admissions.

The authors found that, in 2008, 36,450 deaths were due to drug overdoses in the United States. OPR accounted for 73.8 percent of the total 20,044 prescription drug overdose deaths. A five-fold variation was observed in the state-wide OPR death rates. Nonmedical use of OPR, and OPR sales in 2008 to 2009 were lower in states with lower death rates. There was a substantial increase in the overdose death rates, sales, and substance abuse treatment admissions related to OPR between 1999 and 2008. OPR sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. Health insurers spend approximately $72.5 billion annually in health care costs due to OPR abuse.

"The epidemic of prescription drug overdoses in the United States has worsened over the last decade," the authors write. "Concerted attempts to address this problem, especially in states with high rates of OPR sales, nonmedical use, or overdose mortality, might help control the epidemic."

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