US Opioid Use Not Declining, Despite Focus on Abuse

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Rates of opioid use in the United States do not appear to be declining.
Rates of opioid use in the United States do not appear to be declining.

HealthDay News — Rates of opioid use in the United States do not appear to be declining, according to a study published online Aug. 1 in The BMJ.

Molly Moore Jeffery, Ph.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues used a national database of medical and pharmacy claims for commercially insured and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in the United States (48 million individuals) in order to describe trends in the rate and daily dose of opioids from 2007 to 2016.

The researchers found that across the study period the annual opioid use prevalence was 14 percent for commercial beneficiaries, 26 percent for aged Medicare beneficiaries, and 52 percent for disabled Medicare beneficiaries of any age. 

For both the commercial beneficiary group and aged Medicare beneficiaries, the quarterly prevalence of opioid use remained relatively stable. However, among disabled Medicare beneficiaries, both quarterly use rates (39 percent) and average daily dose (56 milligram morphine equivalents [MMEs]) were higher at the end of 2016 than the low points observed in 2007 (26 percent prevalence and 53 MMEs). Disabled Medicare beneficiaries also had the highest rates of opioid use, the highest rate of long-term use, and the largest average daily doses.

"Opioid use and average daily dose have not substantially declined from their peaks, despite increased attention to opioid abuse and awareness of their risks," the authors write.

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