Prescribing Practices Fueling Opioid Epidemic

Over the past 15 years the number of prescription opioid painkillers has gone up by 400% yet the amount of pain or disability that Americans experience has remained unchanged.   From 2000 to 2014, more than 165,000 people in the US have died from overdoses related to prescription opioid use.

One critical component to turning the corner on this epidemic is to identify higher risk populations that rely heavily on opioids.  That info can give us important information which can be used to craft targeted interventions among high risk folks.  

There was a super interesting study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine last week that found more than half of all opioid prescriptions in the US are written for people with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

People with mood disorders are at increased risk of abusing opioids, yet they received many more prescriptions than the general population, according to an analysis of data from 2011 and 2013.

The study, Prescription Opioid Use among Adults with Mental Health Disorders in the United States concluded that the 16% of Americans who have mental health disorders receive over half of all opioids prescribed in the United States.

The study found that 19% of the 38 million Americans with mood disorders use prescription opioids, compared to 5% percent of the general population — after controlling for physical health, level of pain, age, sex and race.

These findings are surely applicable to Arizona as well – and it provides really important information that we can surely use to augment the findings of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ report that was published this week outlining the results of their enhanced surveillance and recommended policy interventions.