The American Opioid Fallout

The American Opioid Fallout.

Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid. Opioids are substances that work on the nervous system in the body or specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain. Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone (including prescription opioids and heroin) —have more than quadrupled since 1999. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. We now know that overdoses from prescription opioids are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths. Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Living with chronic pain can be challenging. It is essential that patients and their doctors discuss treatment options with all of the risks and benefits carefully considered. Some medications, such as prescription opioids, can help relieve pain in the short term, but also come with serious risks and potential complications—and must be prescribed and used carefully. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed and published the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide recommendations for the prescribing of opioid pain medication for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. Recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3 months or past the time of normal tissue healing) outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care. Credit: CDC.

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