January 7, 2018

No End in Sight for the Opioid Epidemic?

Despite the various legislative efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, and despite the fact that opioid prescribing rates have decreased nationally, the problem continues to rage on, having caused 42,249 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In fact, the CDC recently announced that life expectancy has dropped for the second year in a row, with many, including the Journal of the American Medical Association, chalking it up in large part to an increase in opioid overdose deaths. Meanwhile, deaths due to heart disease and other chronic conditions continue to decrease.

The data indicates that synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are a primary driver for these increased deaths, with overdose death rates increasing 88% from 2013 to 2016. Synthetic opioids were involved with 19,413 deaths in 2016. However, it is important to note the continued growing role of prescription opioids in the epidemic, as fatalities due to prescription opioids also continue to increase year-over-year, at a rate of 3% per year from 2009 through 2016.

Nationally, while prescribing rates have begun to drop, they remain high. While professionals in the workers’ compensation industry have become experts in managing this particular area of concern, these latest numbers remind us that opioid management continues to be more important than ever.

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