The White House Council of Economic Advisers [CEA] released its analysis of the economic costs of illegal opioid use, related overdoses, and overdose mortality in November 2017. It reported a dramatically higher estimate than previous analyses, largely due to a change in methodology. Previous analyses had used a person's estimated lifetime earnings to place a dollar value on that person's life.
Prescription Analgesics, typically opioid pain relievers
"After four straight years of increases, in 2016, urine testing positivity for heroin, indicated by the presence of the 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM) metabolite, held steady in the general U.S. workforce and declined slightly among federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers.
"Fentanyl was detected in 56.3% of 5,152 opioid overdose deaths in the 10 states during July–December 2016 (Figure). Among these 2,903 fentanyl-positive deaths, fentanyl was determined to be a cause of death by the medical examiner or coroner in nearly all (97.1%) of the deaths.
"Opioid analgesics are useful in managing acute and chronic pain. They are sometimes underused in patients with severe acute pain or with pain and a terminal disorder such as cancer, resulting in needless pain and suffering. Reasons for undertreatment include
" Underestimation of the effective dose
" Overestimation of the risk of adverse effects
The federal Centers for Disease Control reported on December 21, 2017, that there had been a total of 63,600 deaths attributed to drug overdose in the US in 2016. Based on data available for analysis on Oct. 1, 2017, the CDC's provisional count of drug overdose deaths in the US for the 12-month period ending in December 2016 had been 71,135. The difference is attributed to data quality: provisional counts are by definition incomplete, which means they can be misleading.
"First, factors related to death investigation might affect rate estimates involving specific drugs. At autopsy, the substances tested for, and circumstances under which tests are performed to determine which drugs are present, might vary by jurisdiction and over time. Second, the percentage of deaths with specific drugs identified on the death certificate varies by jurisdiction and over time. Nationally, 19% (in 2014) and 17% (in 2015) of drug overdose death certificates did not include the specific types of drugs involved.
"During 2015, drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 U.S. deaths, including 33,091 (63.1%) that involved an opioid. There has been progress in preventing methadone deaths, and death rates declined by 9.1%. However, rates of deaths involving other opioids, specifically heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone (likely driven primarily by illicitly manufactured fentanyl) (2,3), increased sharply overall and across many states."
" In 2013, 4.7% of Australians aged 14 or older had misused a pharmaceutical in the previous 12 months, which was a significant rise from 4.2% in 2010. This increase was only significant for males (from 4.1% in 2010 to 5.1% in 2013 and from 4.2% to 4.4% for females).
" The rise in pharmaceutical misuse was mainly due to an increase in males in their 30s (4.5% in 2010 to 6.9% in 2013) and females in their 40s (3.1% in 2010 to 4.5% in 2013) misusing these drugs.
(Drug Poisoning Deaths In The US 2013, and Trends 1999-2013) "In 2013, a total of 43,982 deaths in the United States were attributed to drug poisoning, including 16,235 deaths (37%) involving opioid analgesics. From 1999 to 2013, the drug poisoning death rate more than doubled from 6.1 to 13.8 per 100,000 population, and the rate for drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled from 1.4 to 5.1 per 100,000.
(Balancing Control And Availability Of Opioid Painkillers In Pain Management) "Because opioid analgesics have both a medical indication and an abuse liability, their prescribing, dispensing, and administration, indeed their very availability in commerce, is governed by a combination of policies, including international treaties and U.S. federal and state laws and regulations. The main purpose of these policies is drug control: to prevent diversion and abuse of prescription medications.