Category Archives: Surveys & Statistics

ERs prescribing more painkillers: study

RXIncreasing numbers of Americans are being prescribed powerful opiate painkillers during emergency room visits, a new study has found. Between 2001 and 2010, emergency departments in the United States showed a 49 percent increase in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers despite the fact that there was only a small increase in the percentage of visits for painful conditions.

The study, published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, found that in 2010, 31 percent of ER visits involved a narcotic painkiller prescription, up from about 21 percent in 2001.

These increases were seen for conditions including abdominal pain, back pain, headache, joint and muscle pain, and toothaches.

In addition, the study found that hydromorphone and oxycodone had the greatest increase in ER administration between 2005 and 2010, while oxycodone and hydrocodone had the greatest increases in discharge prescriptions.

About 12 million Americans abused prescription painkillers in 2010, while roughly 15,000 Americans die annually from overdosing on such drugs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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N.J. task force urges action on opiate abuse

bunchofpillsA New Jersey task force on heroin and opiate abuse is calling for a number of measures to address the state’s growing prescription drug and heroin epidemic. In a new report, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse said the number of drug-related deaths in the state is skyrocketing, rising 53 percent from 2010 to 2012, with more than two-thirds of those fatalities involving prescription drug abuse, according to this article. The report proposes major changes to New Jersey’s prescription pill monitoring laws, improvements to an insurance system that stacks the deck against drug addicts, and expanded use of recovery communities for students battling opioid addiction, the article says.

Like many other states, New Jersey has seen a rise in heroin abuse in light of the prescription drug addiction epidemic. Heroin is cheaper than pills, and in many cases easier to obtain. In the report, the task force chairman wrote:

“This is hardly the traditional path to heroin abuse, and that is one of the things that make the present situation so troubling. Because readily-available prescription pills have become a gateway drug, heroin is finding its way into the world of people who never imagined that they would ever confront this terrible substance.”

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Teen pill abuse down in Ohio

PILLS.jpgThere is evidence that Ohio’s efforts to curb prescription drug addiction among teens is working. Fewer than 12.8 percent of ninth through 12th graders reported using prescription painkillers without a doctor’s orders at least once during their life, according to the 2013 Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The number marks a 40 percent drop from the previous study, in 2011, when 21.3 percent of students said they had used painkillers without a prescription, according to this article.

But the state’s fight is far from over: many painkiller addicts are turning to heroin when their prescriptions run out or they can no longer afford to get the painkillers from dealers, leading to a surge in overdose deaths in the Greater Cincinnati area, the article notes.

From 2000 to 2011, Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased more than 350 percent, and the increase in deaths has been driven largely by prescription drug overdoses, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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Ky. sees rise in drug-addicted babies

sick babyIn Kentucky, where prescription drug and heroin addiction are rife, hospitalizations for babies born dependent on drugs because of their mothers’ addictions are continuing to increase even as drug overdose deaths level off. In 2012, there were 824 hospitalizations for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome, up from 678 in 2011 and 28 in 2000, according to this article, which cites a new report by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center. In addition, the report found that even though drug overdose deaths overall have leveled off and adult drug overdose hospitalizations have gone down, heroin-overdose deaths rose 207 percent between 2011 and 2012, the article says.

According to the article:

Along with the rise in infant hospitalizations has come a similar increase in the charges for these hospital stays in Kentucky, which reached $40.2 million in 2012, up from $200,000 in 2000. Researchers found that 694 of the 824 hospitalizations in 2012 were expected to be paid by government-funded Medicaid, for a total of $34.9 million.

Kentucky currently only has one-tenth of the substance abuse treatment beds it needs, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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Pain pill prescriptions fueling teen addiction: study

teendrugsThere are many reasons why teenagers get hooked on prescription drugs, but new research conducted at the University of Michigan has found that those who are prescribed pain relievers are at “notable risk” for abusing opioid drugs.

A University of Michigan researcher found that teens may develop an increased tolerance to the medication, which can lead to continued use of the drug after the initial prescription is finished.

According to the researcher:

“Once an adolescent has been medically exposed to a potentially addictive medication, adolescents are more likely to engage in nonmedical use and diversion, including buying, selling and giving away pills.”

Earlier this year, a separate study found that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime – a 33% increase over the past five years – up from 18% in 2008.

Of those kids who said they abused prescription medications, one in five (20%) had done so before age 14, that survey found.

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Opioid prescriptions up, but pain treatment unimproved: study

PILLS.jpgPrescription opioid use has skyrocketed over the last decade, but the identification and treatment of pain has failed to improve – and the use of non-opioid analgesics has plateaued, or even declined, a new study has found.

The study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published Sept. 13 in the journal Medical Care, analyzed trends from 2000 to 2010 associated with patients seeking medical treatment for non-cancer pain, and found no significant change in the proportion of pain visits – approximately one-half – treated with pain relievers.

During that time period, opioid prescriptions nearly doubled, from 11% in 2000 to 19% in 2010, the study found. In addition, of approximately 164 million pain visits in 2010, roughly half were treated with some kind of pain relieving drug: 20% with an opioid and 27% with a non-opioid pain reliever, according to the study.

The information comes just after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new labeling changes and postmarket study requirements for extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics. According to the agency, the changes are aimed at combatting “the crisis of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death from these potent drugs that have harmed too many patients and devastated too many families and communities.”

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Pills cause most drug deaths globally: study

imgname--prescription_drug_abuse_on_the_rise---38647165--images--flickr_2931207680Although marijuana is the most popular illegal drug used worldwide, addiction to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin kill the most people, according to the first-ever global survey of illicit drug abuse.

Of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were because of painkiller addictions, according to the study, which was published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.

For all the drugs studied, men in their 20s had the highest rates of abuse, while the worst-hit countries were the U.S., Australia, Britain, and Russia, the study found.

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Many heroin addicts were former pill abusers: report

heroinspoonA new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. In addition, people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers nonmedically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use within the past 12 months than others in that age group, the report found.

The report came as part of SAMHSA’s larger efforts to identify some of the factors behind the rise in the rates of heroin use, dependence and initiation that have occurred in the past few years across the nation.

According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.

The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period, SAMHSA said.

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Most heroin addicts initially started on pills: report

bunchofpillsHeroin use and overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, and emerging information suggests this is the result of prescription painkiller addicts transitioning to the hardcore street drug. According to statistics recently released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, most people reporting heroin use initially started on pills.

According to the NCBI:

Between 2002-2004 and 2008-2010, past year heroin use increased among people reporting past year nonmedical use (PYNMU) of opioid pain relievers, but not among those reporting no PYNMU. Frequent nonmedical users – people reporting 100-365 days of PYNMU – had the highest rate of past year heroin use and were at increased risk for ever injecting heroin and past year heroin abuse or dependence as compared to infrequent nonmedical users (1-29 days of PYNMU).

In 2008-2010, 82.6% of frequent nonmedical users who used heroin in the past year reported nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers prior to heroin initiation compared to 64.1% in 2002-2004.

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Opioid abuse epidemic leaving many untreated

RXAs of 2009, around 2.3 million Americans suffered from addiction to opioids such as heroin or the prescription drug oxycodone, and new research shows that many of these people aren’t getting the treatment they need, according to this article. The massive uptick in opiate addiction has resulted in a major gap between current treatment options and evidence-based practices, the article says, citing an article published in the journal Health Affairs.

Excessive regulation presents the biggest barrier for treatment in the U.S., the article says. In addition, although maintenance treatment with methadone is the dominant form of treatment for opioid dependence throughout most of the developed world, detox is still a popular option, particularly in the U.S. – even though it is ineffective in getting and keeping people off of opioids, the article says.

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