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Epidemiological evidence on extra-medical use of prescription pain relievers: transitions from newly incident use to dependence among 12–21 year olds in the United States using meta-analysis, 2002–13



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Prescription pain relievers, Opioids, Adolescents, Dependence, Transition, Epidemiology, Incidence

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      Background. When 12-to-21-year-olds start using prescription pain relievers extra-medically, some of them transition into opioid dependence within 12 months after such use. Our main aim for this epidemiological research on 12-to-21-year-olds in the United States (US) is to estimate the risk of becoming a newly incident case of opioid dependence within 12 months after onset of using prescription pain relievers extra-medically (EMPPR).

      Methods. Meta-analyses from multiple independent replication samples now are possible, based upon nationally representative survey samples of US adolescents age 12–21 years. All 12-to-21-year-olds were sampled and recruited for the US National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, with standardized assessments of EMPPR use and opioid dependence (NSDUH, 2002–2013).

      Results. Peak risk for a transition from start of EMPPR use to opioid dependence within 12 months is seen at mid-adolescence among 14-to-15-year-olds (6.3%, 8.7% per year), somewhat earlier than peak risk for starting EMPPR use (seen for 16-to-19-year-olds at 4.1%, 5.9% per year). Applied to 12-to-21-year-olds in the US between 2002–2013, an estimated 8 million started using PPR extra-medically. Each year, roughly 42,000 to 58,000 transitioned into opioid dependence within 12 months after onset of such use.

      Discussion. These epidemiological estimates for the US in recent years teach us to expect one transition into adolescent-onset opioid dependence within 12 months for every 11–16 newly incident EMPPR users, yielding perhaps 120 newly incident opioid dependent cases in need of practitioner attention or treatment services, each day of each year. This evidence can be used to motivate more effective public health prevention, outreach, and early intervention programs as might prevent or delay occurrence of EMPPR use and opioid dependence.

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      The use of prescription opioid medications has increased greatly in the United States during the past two decades; in 2010, there were 16,651 opioid-related deaths. In response, hundreds of federal, state, and local interventions have been implemented. We describe trends in the diversion and abuse of prescription opioid analgesics using data through 2013.
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        The problem of abuse of and addiction to opioid analgesics has emerged as a major issue for the United States in the past decade and has worsened over the past few years. The increases in abuse of these opioids appear to reflect, in part, changes in medication prescribing practices, changes in drug formulations as well as relatively easy access via the internet. Though the use of opioid analgesics for the treatment of acute pain appears to be generally benign, long-term administration of opioids has been associated with clinically meaningful rates of abuse or addiction. Important areas of research to help with the problem of opioid analgesic abuse include the identification of clinical practices that minimize the risks of addiction, the development of guidelines for early detection and management of addiction, the development of opioid analgesics that minimize the risks for abuse, and the development of safe and effective non-opioid analgesics. With high rates of abuse of opiate analgesics among teenagers in the United States, a particularly urgent priority is the investigation of best practices for treating pain in adolescents as well as the development of prevention strategies to reduce diversion and abuse.
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          Opioid epidemic in the United States.

          Over the past two decades, as the prevalence of chronic pain and health care costs have exploded, an opioid epidemic with adverse consequences has escalated. Efforts to increase opioid use and a campaign touting the alleged undertreatment of pain continue to be significant factors in the escalation. Many arguments in favor of opioids are based solely on traditions, expert opinion, practical experience and uncontrolled anecdotal observations. Over the past 20 years, the liberalization of laws governing the prescribing of opioids for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain by the state medical boards has led to dramatic increases in opioid use. This has evolved into the present stage, with the introduction of new pain management standards by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) in 2000, an increased awareness of the right to pain relief, the support of various organizations supporting the use of opioids in large doses, and finally, aggressive marketing by the pharmaceutical industry. These positions are based on unsound science and blatant misinformation, and accompanied by the dangerous assumptions that opioids are highly effective and safe, and devoid of adverse events when prescribed by physicians. Results of the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that an estimated 22.6 million, or 8.9% of Americans, aged 12 or older, were current or past month illicit drug users, The survey showed that just behind the 7 million people who had used marijuana, 5.1 million had used pain relievers. It has also been shown that only one in 6 or 17.3% of users of non-therapeutic opioids indicated that they received the drugs through a prescription from one doctor. The escalating use of therapeutic opioids shows hydrocodone topping all prescriptions with 136.7 million prescriptions in 2011, with all narcotic analgesics exceeding 238 million prescriptions. It has also been illustrated that opioid analgesics are now responsible for more deaths than the number of deaths from both suicide and motor vehicle crashes, or deaths from cocaine and heroin combined. A significant relationship exists between sales of opioid pain relievers and deaths. The majority of deaths (60%) occur in patients when they are given prescriptions based on prescribing guidelines by medical boards, with 20% of deaths in low dose opioid therapy of 100 mg of morphine equivalent dose or less per day and 40% in those receiving morphine of over 100 mg per day. In comparison, 40% of deaths occur in individuals abusing the drugs obtained through multiple prescriptions, doctor shopping, and drug diversion. The purpose of this comprehensive review is to describe various aspects of crisis of opioid use in the United States. The obstacles that must be surmounted are primarily inappropriate prescribing patterns, which are largely based on a lack of knowledge, perceived safety, and inaccurate belief of undertreatment of pain.

            Author and article information

            Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Michigan State University , East Lansing, MI, United States
            PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
            20 October 2015
            : 3
            © 2015 Parker and Anthony

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

            Funded by: National Institute on Drug Abuse
            Award ID: T32DA021129
            Funded by: JCA’s NIDA Senior Scientist and Mentorship Award
            Award ID: K05DA015799
            Funded by: Michigan State University
            This work is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (T32DA021129) and JCA’s NIDA Senior Scientist and Mentorship Award (K05DA015799), and by Michigan State University. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Michigan State University, or the National Institutes of Health. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
            Drugs and Devices
            Public Health


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