Dr. Chris Johnson, chair of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Opioid Prescribing Workgroup, said during a recent all-employee meeting of workers’ compensation insurer SFM that deaths from opioid overdose is merely the tip of the “iceberg of misery” of the epidemic.
He explained that for every death, more patients are checking in to emergency rooms, abusing the drugs or going through treatment to nip their dependency.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) estimates that of the 21.5 million Americans 12 years and older who have a substance abuse problem; almost 2 million are addicted to prescription opioids.
ASAM also said that in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids.
Statistics revealed that 94% of those who have opioid abuse problems switch to heroin because prescription opioids were “far more expensive and harder to obtain,” ASAM said.
Citing figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johnson noted that almost 200,000 Americans died from opiate prescription overdoses from the year 2000 to 2014.
Even as evidence is stacking against prescribing opioids for non-terminal patients with non-acute pain, hospitals and doctors remain under pressure to do so because of licensure requirements, patient satisfaction ratings, and minimal treatment times, Johnson further observed.
Additionally, he said that regulators, politicians, and insurers need to cooperate with the healthcare industry to curb the epidemic.