Magazine article USA TODAY

Opioid Use through the Roof

Magazine article USA TODAY

Opioid Use through the Roof

Article excerpt

Nonmedical use of prescription opioids more than doubled among adults in the U.S. in the last 10 years, based on a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse. Nearly 10,000,000 Americans used opioid medications--a class of drugs that includes oxycontin and vicodin--without a prescription or not as prescribed (in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed) in the past year.

More than 11% of Americans report nonmedical use of prescription opioids at some point in their lives, a considerable increase from 4.7% 10 years prior. The number of people who meet the criteria for prescription opioid addiction has increased substantially during this time frame as well, with 2,100,000 adults reporting symptoms of "nonmedical prescription opioid use disorder," according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

"The increasing misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers poses a myriad of serious public health consequences," says Nora D. Volkow, director of NIDA. "These include increases in opioid use disorders and related fatalities from overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns who experience neonatal abstinence syndrome. In some instances, prescription opioid misuse can progress to intravenous heroin use with consequent increases in risk for HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections among individuals sharing needles."

Prescription opioid misuse is an urgent public health problem, with drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics, which include both prescription and illicit opioids, quadrupling since 1999, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. …

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