An Estimated 2 Million U.S. Adults Have an Opioid Use Disorder — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
August 1, 2017

An Estimated 2 Million U.S. Adults Have an Opioid Use Disorder

By Kelly Young

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Jaye Elizabeth Hefner, MD

Roughly one in three U.S. adults reported recent use of prescription opioids on the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, according to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers interviewed over 50,000 adults about their use of opioids in the past 12 months. Based on the results, the researchers estimate the following for civilian noninstitutionalized adults:

  • 38% (equivalent to 92 million Americans) had used prescription opioids in the past year

  • 5% (12 million) misused opioids

  • 1% (2 million) had an opioid use disorder

Roughly 63% of people with prescription opioid misuse and 49% with opioid use disorders said they used the drugs primarily for pain management.

Dr. Carlos del Rio of NEJM Journal Watch Infectious Diseases comments: "The prescription opioid epidemic is something that is already the #1 cause of death for Americans under 50-years-old and, in fact, is killing more people annually that what HIV did at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It is a complex problem that will require imaginative solutions."

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