In one of the first studies of its kind, the FAIR Health group released some very interesting information last fall. This group used claims data from privately insured persons to illustrate some obvious, but very shocking conclusions about privately insured persons who are regular opioid users.
The data from this study looked at (non-identifying) data from insurers who cover upwards of 150 million patients. They noticed the following observations:
From 2007-2014, medical services for people with opioid dependence diagnoses skyrocketed more than 3,000%
Much of the increase in opioid dependence occurred since 2011, even though this period was marked by increased attention to the problem and a growing concern amongst advocates as they called on doctors to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.
Younger patients (19-35 years) were most likely to be diagnosed as “opioid dependent” relative to other age groups. (Dependence is defined by symptoms such as increased tolerance, withdrawal or unsuccessful attempts to quit.)
Younger patients were also more likely than older patients to overdose on heroin. It was observed that younger people may start with prescription medications, but then turn to street drugs like heroin since they have a harder time maintaining their opioid supply by visiting doctors. Conversely, older patients were less likely to turn to street drugs because they have an easier time getting refills from their doctors.
The reverse was true, however, for overdoses related to other types of opioids. People in their mid-40s to mid-50s were more likely to suffer this consequence. Older patients seem to be less likely to turn to street drugs because they have an easier time getting refills from their doctors.
The primary diagnosis of opioid dependency kicks off a number of medical services, including office visits, lab tests and other related treatments. The report found that the number of such services rendered to patients with a dependency diagnosis went from about 217,000 in 2007 to about 7 million in 2014. This is what is meant by a tsunami effect!
Regardless of age, men were more likely than women to be diagnosed with dependency. That gap narrowed among patients in their 40s and 50s, with women representing 45% of those diagnosed. It’s also interesting to note that women were more likely than men to experience an overdose.
Older patients, he said, are less likely to turn to street drugs because they have an easier time getting refills from their doctors.
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Sources: Pain Management News; Wikimedia