Prescription Opioid Use Stable, But Patients Using Stronger Painkillers

Prescription Opioid Use Stable, But Patients Using Stronger Painkillers
Prescription Opioid Use Stable, But Patients Using Stronger Painkillers

The percentage of adults aged ≥20 years that used a prescription opioid analgesic in the past 30 days remained stable through 2011–2012, although use has doubled compared to 1988–1994, according to a new survey from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a cross-sectional survey designed to monitor the health and nutritional status of the civilian non-institutionalized U.S. population, assessed participants on their use of opioid analgesics and if applicable, strength of opioid relative to morphine. The opioid strength was categorized according to the following criteria:

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From 1999–2002 to 2003–2006, the percentage of adults aged ≥20 years who used a prescription opioid analgesic in the past 30 days increased from 5.0% to 6.9%; this percentage was unchanged from 2011–2012. However, use has doubled since 1988–1994 when only 3.4% reported use of opioid analgesics. The percentage of opioid analgesic users who used an opioid analgesic stronger than morphine increased from 17.0% to 37.0% in 1999–2002 and 2011–2012, respectively. The percentage who used only a weaker-than-morphine opioid declined from 42.4% in 1999–2002 to 20% in 2011–2012.

The strongest opioid use was a morphine-equivalent strength opioid for 43% of users and approximately 11% of respondents reported using two or more opioid analgesics. The use of opioid analgesics was higher among women (7.2%) compared to men (6.3%), among older adults (8.1% for those aged 40–59; and 7.9% for those aged ≥60 years) than younger adults (4.7% for those aged 20–39).

For more information visit CDC.gov.

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