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Medical Services For Opioid Dependency Up 3,000 Percent Over Last Decade

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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A new report shows the rate of medical services for opioid dependency has risen by more than 3,000 percent between 2007 and 2014, while services for opioid abuse have risen by more than 300 percent.

Researchers from FAIR Health, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare,” found medical services for opioid dependency has risen by 3,303 percent in seven years, and services for opioid abuse rose by 317 percent during that time. Researchers also found that heroin overdoses have risen by 510 percent between 2009 and 2014, which researchers say is “much steeper than the growth in overdoses” from prescription opioids.

“A 3,000 percent increase is enormous,” Andrew Kolodny, senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, told Kaiser Health News.

“We believe opioids are overprescribed,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director at the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We believe that the enormous increase in opioid prescribing over the last twenty years has led to a sharp increase in the number of Americans suffering from suffering from opioid addiction.”

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FAIR Health report says 2014 saw more people die from drug overdoses than “any year on record,” more than 28,000. Which puts the rate at about 8.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people. In 2007, that rate was about 5.5 per 100,000.

Men have been the predominant group afflicted by heroin use, but the report says women are closing the gap.

“Heroin use grew by 100 percent among females but only 50 percent among males,” the report says.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the spike in heroin use is, in some part, related to growing tolerance to prescription opioids.

“The emergence of chemical tolerance toward prescribed opioids…may in some instances explain the transition to abuse of heroin, which is cheaper and in some communities easier to obtain than prescription opioids,” Nora D. Volkow, M.D. said to a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in 2014.

Some states, like New York, have attempted to combat this epidemic by limiting the number of days a person can be prescribed opioids from 30 down to seven. They have also enacted a program called “I-Stop,” which mandates doctors prescribe drugs electronically. This allows doctors an archive that can prevent what’s known as “doctor shopping” — where patients go to multiple doctors to receive prescriptions.

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