Opioid Overdose Continues to Rise

A worrisome trend continues. Despite medical and government efforts, opioid-related deaths continue to rise across the country. According to the CDC, drug overdose death rates have more than doubled in the past 15 years and now take more lives than automobile accidents among 25 to 64-year-olds.

Rates of abuse seem highest in white, middle-aged males and translate to a financial burden for the United States of over $50 billion per year. Over half of the deaths the CDC reported were related to prescription medications.

Opioid prescriptions rates vary by state. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the highest numbers seem to be concentrated in the southeast parts of the country, with Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky topping the charts. Twelve states had more than one prescription per person. Alabama, for instance, had 143 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people.

Opioids are widely used painkillers, but dosing must be carefully monitored due to their addictive qualities. Many patients become addicted to opioids while in the hospital and resort to illicit means to get painkillers once their prescription runs out. Government and private institutions are pushing for changes in opioid prescribing to help combat this trend, including greater access to substance abuse treatment and prescription drug monitoring programs.

Prescribers can also potentially help curb trends by being aware of the pharmacogenetic considerations surrounding opioid medications. Precisely dosing opioid medications can be difficult because many are processed by the highly variable CYP450 family of enzymes, which means other drugs within a patient’s regimen and the patient’s own genetics may influence the opioid’s efficacy, which can, in turn, lead to accidental overdosing.

To learn more about genetically-caused opioid interactions, visit http://genelex.com/clinical-guidance/pain/.