Study: The Drug Crisis Is Not Discriminating By Age Or Region

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Americans of all ages are suffering from drug addiction, and insurance claims for opioid abuse and dependence are increasing in both urban and rural areas across the country.

An analysis of private insurance claims between 2007 and 2016 reveals opioid abuse exists among all Americans, from those as young as 13 to individuals more than 80 years old. Previous analyses suggest the crisis is far worse for Americans living in sparsely populated areas. Specific demographic trends vary from urban metropolises to more rural areas, but opioid abuse is not unique to any age, gender or region, FAIR Health reported Monday.

The analysis by FAIR Health, a national nonprofit advocating health care transparency, found opioid abuse is more concentrated among middle-age Americans in rural parts of the country. In urban areas, abuse is more equally prevalent among young and middle-age residents. Opioid abuse by gender also varies by region, as do treatment options.

“It is important first to realize that the opioid epidemic has spread to all age groups, and efforts to control it should not be confined to a single age range,” Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Second, different age groups may have different characteristics. In urban settings in the period 2007-2016, there were two age groups in which females outnumbered males with respect to claim lines with opioid abuse and dependence diagnoses: individuals aged 13 to 18 years and those over 80 years. In rural settings, males outnumbered females in every age group.”

Illinois and Pennsylvania showed the clearest gender divide, with males dominating private claims for opioid abuse and dependence in all age groups. The split lessons however for residents in both states over the age of 50. The analysis also found the highest number of claims for opioid abuse and dependence in all states came from Americans between the ages of 51 and 60, but Gelburd notes this number does not include claims for overdoses.

“In our Philadelphia data for 2007-2016, 75 percent of claim lines with heroin overdose occurred in the 19 to 30 age group, while 60 percent of claim lines with overdose of opioids excluding heroin occurred in the over 50 age group,” Gelburd told TheDCNF. “This pattern is similar to previous national research.”

FAIR Health has the largest private health claims database in the U.S., analyzing 23 billion privately billed healthcare claims.

More than two million Americans have some sort of physical dependence on opioids, and nearly 100 million Americans have a prescription for the drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016.

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