Nearly 5% of adult Americans use opioid painkillers

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Researchers have found that nearly 5% of adult Americans use opioid painkillers. Judith Parsells Kelly, of Boston University, and colleagues, based their estimate on a prevalence of 2% and 4.9% among participants from a national telephone survey. The study, which was published in the August 31st issue of Pain, reinforces the need “…to strike a rational balance between opioid misuse and effective control of chronic pain,” researchers said. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

The three prior national studies that have been done found a 3% to 3.5% prevalence of opioid use spanning time periods from 1988 to 2001, which Kelly’s group called comparable to their results given the differences in methods.

The current study was a random-digit-dial telephone survey that included 19,150 adults in households with a landline telephone. Participants were interviewed from February 1998 through September 2006 and were representative of the non-institutionalized U.S. population.

When asked to gather their medication bottles, 926 respondents reported using opioids during the prior week, for an overall adjusted prevalence of 4.9%.

Among the opioid users, 406 were considered regular users — at least five days a week for at least four weeks (adjusted prevalence 2%). This group grew over time during the study.

Another 104 respondents used the drugs on five or more days a week, but over a period of less than four weeks.

Most regular users took only one opioid but often for a duration of more than two years (47%).

Oral formulations dominated the opioids used — most commonly hydrocodone plus acetaminophen (Vicodin, Norco, Zydone, Panacet, Lortab, Lorcet, Co-gesic, Anexsia), tramadol (Ultram), propoxyphene plus acetaminophen (Darvocet), and hydrocodone.

As expected, pain was the number one reason reported for taking an opioid, most commonly back pain (20%), pain specific to headache or another cause (26%), and arthritis (13%).

Click here to view the entire article from Medpage Today

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