- Posted by Austin Swim
- On June 1, 2015
- 0 Comments
Updated statistics stemming from a study on the misuse of opioids and rates of addiction were recently published in PAIN®, the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. The study at hand reported that around 25 percent—or even as high as 30 percent—of opioid drugs prescribed for chronic pain are misused, while around 10 percent of these prescribed drugs are involved in opioid addiction. This means that at least one of every four or five patients who is prescribed an opioid medication for chronic pain will end up misusing, and that one out of every ten or eleven patients with such prescriptions will develop an addiction.
The study was carried out at the University of New Mexico (UNM) by Psychology Professor Kevin E. Vowles, PhD, and colleagues and was funded by a grant from the Center for Health Policy at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at UNM. The researchers who carried out the study calculated estimates using data from 38 different reports on opioid use. In analyzing the data they distinguished and tracked three different types of opioid use: misuse, abuse, and addiction. Their analyses gave them a wide range of statistics to work with; some specific rates in opioid misuse and addiction were identified to be as low as about 1 percent, while other specific rates were identified to be as high as 80 percent. The researchers synthesized these statistics by making adjustments for sample size, quality, and methods, and then calculating an average rate of opioid misuse, which ended up being a range between 21 and 29 percent. The same was done for addiction, which resulted in a calculated range of 8 to 12 percent for opioid addiction.
Misuse, in this case, was defined as “using opioids contrary to instructions, regardless of harmful or adverse effects.” Addiction, meanwhile, was defined as “continued opioid use with actual or potential harmful effects.” Abuse was defined as “intentionally using the drugs for nonmedical purposes,” but only one study analyzed addressed the estimated rate of opioid abuse, preventing the researchers from arriving at a similarly calculated rate as with misuse and addiction.
These startling statistics are beginning to raise questions to physicians about the prescribing these medications on a widespread basis for chronic pain, especially given their potential for negative consequences. They also urge for a push toward further study on specific types of problematic opioid use. The researchers involved suggested that these high rates of misuse mean that physicians should consider opioid treatment alternatives, such as patient education and monitoring. This would better help physicians to make more sound decisions in prescribing opioids, and give them an alternative to simply not prescribing an opioid. In addition, the researchers pointed out that 35 of the 38 studies they analyzed were conducted in the U.S., suggesting that this “opioid epidemic” might somehow be unique—or at least much more of an issue—in the U.S.