Stanford study: Three-quarters of opioid prescriptions written for 10 percent of patients

A new Stanford study reveals a startling fact about the nation’s opioid crisis: A small minority of Americans account for the large majority of drug abusers.

Opioids aren’t widely overused by the general population, as often presumed. Rather, more than three-quarters of opioid prescriptions are written for just 10 percent of patients, according to an analysis by Dr. Eric Sun of Stanford University Medical Center, published in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More than half, or 59 percent, of all opioid prescriptions go to just 5 percent of patients, he found.Related Articles

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To reduce opioid abuse, “these are the people we want to focus on,” said Sun, of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.

State legislators are taking too broad an approach, Sun said, pursuing a spate of laws that limit prescribing by restricting duration or total dosage for all patients. For instance, first-time prescriptions for outpatients in Massachusetts are limited to seven days.

The Stanford findings show that “for most people, those policies are not all that useful. They affect everyone,” he said. As a result, some could be stranded without adequate pain relief.

Instead, “we should focus on that 10 percent,” then adopt targeted strategies — through laws, insurance policies or changes to clinical care — to reduce their opioid abuse.

This concentration of opioid use has increased over time, Sun found. In 2001, 69 percent of prescriptions went to 10 percent of people and 55 percent of prescriptions went to 5 percent of people. By 2013, the numbers had increased. They found that 76 percent of opioid prescriptions went to 10 percent of users and 59 percent of opioid prescriptions went to 5 percent of users.

With 100 million Americans prescribed opioids to cope with chronic pain, according to a 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine, many people become hooked on ever-larger doses of these drugs and risk death by …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health

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