51% of Americans prescribed opioids suffer from psychological disorders

A majority of opioid prescriptions written in the United States are for people suffering from mood disorders like anxiety and depression, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

For the study, researchers assessed prescription medication and health data on 51,000 adults obtained from surveys of providers and medical facilities conducted in 2011 and 2013. Researchers found 19 percent of the 38.6 million Americans with mood disorders are prescribed opioids, compared to approximately 5 percent of patients without mood disorders who are prescribed opioids. The data suggests 51 percent of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. are distributed to adults with mood disorders who are at a higher risk of opioid misuse, according to a report from STAT.

While the researchers couldn't pinpoint the exact reason for the discrepancy, senior study author Brian Sites, MD, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, told STAT patients with mood disorders may communicate their experience with pain differently to physicians.

"If you want to come up with social policy to address the need to decrease our out-of-control opioid prescribing, this would be the population you want to study, because they're getting the bulk of the opioids, and then they are known to be at higher risk for the bad stuff," Dr. Sites told STAT. "We need to understand if this massive prescribing level is appropriate in actually providing benefit commensurate with the risk."

More articles on opioids: 
Librarians thrust into first-responder role amid opioid epidemic 
1 in 4 Medicaid members filled an opioid prescription in 2015 
Mallinckrodt partners with Massachusetts hospitals on opioid stewardship program

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