More Research Shows Big Surge in U.S. Opioid Use, Addictions

FRIDAY, June 30, 2017 (HealthDay News) — One in five people who gets commercial health insurance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield filled at least one prescription for an opioid painkiller in 2015, a new study finds.

The research also found that the number of members diagnosed with an opioid use disorder rose almost five-fold from 2010 to 2016.

That increase is far higher than the 65 percent increase in the use of medication-assisted treatments, according to the study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

States with the largest increases in the use of medication-assisted treatments are not necessarily the ones most affected by opioid use disorders. High rates of treatment relative to opioid use disorder were found in New England, while lower rates were found in the South and parts of the Midwest.

Among people 45 and older, women have higher rates of opioid use disorder than do men. Among people younger than 45, men have higher rates than women. In all age groups, women fill more opioid prescriptions than men, the study authors said.

The highest rates of long-term prescription opioid use and opioid use disorder are in the South and the Appalachian region, the research revealed.

Whether it’s short- or long-term use, patients with high-dose opioid prescriptions have much higher rates of opioid use disorder than those with low-dose prescriptions, the study showed.

“Opioid use disorder is a complex issue, and there is no single approach to solving it,” Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, said in an association news release.

“It will take a collaborative effort among medical professionals, insurers, employers, communities and all levels of government working together to develop solutions that effectively meet community needs,” he added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on opioids.

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