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Opioid Prescriptions in the US Increasing Every day, Despite CDC Warnings

A new study by researchers from Saint Louis University has highlighted the dangerously increasing rate of opioid prescriptions in the US. The increase in people using prescription-based opioids shows a high risk of opioid misuse which can even kill a person. Despite the new opioid prescription guidelines shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this number is not coming down. The complete findings of this study are published in the journal Jama Network Open.

In 206, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines on prescribing high potency opioids for treating chronic pain patients in the US. According to the CDC, opioid therapy can be prescribed to primary healthcare patients who are suffering from non-cancerous pain. After these guidelines were published, health experts experienced a huge decline in opioid prescriptions in the US.

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This new study evaluated the data from 5 million adult Americans by going through their e-medical records from 2008 to 2015. Individuals who were a part of this study were at least 18 years old, non-HIV, non-Cancer patients who were given any of these painkillers; oxycodone, codeine, tramadol, or hydrocodone.

This data was analyzed on the basis of the patient’s experience with any benzodiazepine prescription for anxiety, panic disorder, or substance abuse. It particularly looked if a prescription to these medicines had changed the prescription for Schedule II schedule IV opioids.

Out of these 5 million people, nearly 279,435 people were identified as eligible for this study. It included 141,219 individuals from the period before these guidelines were issued and 138,216 individuals picked from the period after these CDC guidelines were posted.

There was no evidence of any decrease in prescription opioids in the US after CDC’s guidelines were published. And the numbers were reported higher than before.

These study results show a dangerous trend of using prescription opioids. Although this study has some limitations, for example, no information about the dispensed prescriptions and the severity of patients’ conditions. Still, it is eye-opening as it shows a high risk of opioid misuse and abuse especially caused by benzodiazepine prescriptions.

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The high-risk group for opioid misuse, the chances of using a Schedule II opioid to treat non-cancerous pain along with Tramadol, before and after these guidelines were almost similar among non-risk groups. The chances of using hydrocodone as well as oxycodone in comparison to Tramadol by psychiatric patients before and after these guidelines were released were unchanged.

The data by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018) shows that 128 people lose their lives to opioid overdose every day. This misuse, abuse, and addiction to these prescription opioids have become a national crisis affecting public health, social growth, and the economic progress of the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that this prescription-based opioids abuse is costing nearly $78.5 billion to the US government. This includes healthcare expenditure, addiction and rehab services, productivity loss, and the justice/legal system. If not controlled, these numbers will continue to rise adding up to this national crisis of opioid misuse. Hence clinicians, pharmacists, and patients all should make a collective effort to prevent the non-medicinal usage of these prescription opioids in the US.



Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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