Blog | Thursday, June 28, 2012

QD: News Every Day--Painkiller abuse rises in young men, declines in teens

Young men saw a 105% increase in painkiller abuse in the past decade, paralleling the increases in death and treatment admissions seen in this time period.

To determine if those using painkillers recreationally had had increased since 2002, a researcher applied data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey of the noninstitutionalized, civilian population 12 years and older, for years 2002-2003 and 2009-2010.

Frequency of abuse of pain relievers was categorized into the time spans of 1 to 29 days, 30 to 99 days, 100 to 199 days, and 200 to 365 days.

Results appeared in a research letter in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Annual average rates of painkiller abuse of the time span of 200 to 365 days increased 105% among male respondents between 2002-2003 and 2009-2010.

Rates of 200 to 365 days of painkiller abuse increased significantly among those ages 18 to 25 (77.6%), 26 to 34 (81%), and 35 to 49 (134.6%).

However, any abuse of painkillers among people ages 12 to 17 decreased by 15%.

The authors noted that the findings parallel increases in overdose deaths and treatment admissions associated with opioid pain relievers in recent years.

"The finding that nearly 0.4% of people 12 years and older, almost 1 million people, reported using pain relievers nonmedically for 200 days or more in 2009-2010 and roughly 2%, or 4.6 million people, used them for 30 days or more is concerning," the author wrote. Each of the 257 million opioid prescriptions dispensed in the United States annually contributes on average to more than 2 days of opioid abuse.

Internists aren't often confident when prescribing opioids, or that they detect and manage abuse. But clear-cut and easy guidelines can help internists achieve the best outcomes for preventing abuse, confronting patients about it and, when needed, ending opioid prescribing among abusers.