The current epidemic of opioid use and the ensuing morbidity and mortality, notably the growing burden of overdose deaths, in the United States and other countries has been well recognized in recent years—with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighting a daily toll of about 190 drug overdose deaths.
In a research paper published in the PLOS Medicine Special Issue, Yu-Jung “Jenny” Wei, Ph.D., M.S., an assistant professor of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy in the University of Florida College of Pharmacy co-authors a report on documented opioid prescriptions in a cohort of 227,000 adults with a diagnosis of opioid use disorder or overdose in the United States during the period 2005–16. Efforts to curb use of prescription opioids are generally focused on people receiving 90 mg of morphine equivalents per day or more. However, the authors found that about 35% of study participants received no prescription opioids in the year before diagnosis of opioid use or overdose, and two thirds received opioids at a level below the recognized threshold for risk. They comment that programs seeking to limit use of prescription opioids could be missing a growing proportion of people at risk of harm from opioid misuse.