Nav: Home

Opioid crisis: Only a US phenomenon?

March 12, 2019

Addiction to prescription opioids has reached a crisis level in the United States. Now the drug is causing concern across the Atlantic. Researchers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden urge caution after discovering that prescriptions for the pain medication oxycodone have significantly increased during the last decade.

The opioid crisis in the United States shows no sign of abating. On average, 130 Americans die of opioid overdoses each day. The abuse of prescription drugs, such as the pain medication oxycodone, cause the majority of these deaths. A pain relieving drug, oxycodone, is prescribed frequently to alleviate moderate to severe pain. Heavily marketed to doctors in the United States, the dangers of this strong painkiller were downplayed, which led to a significant rise in usage. In 2012, more than one in seven Americans had a prescription for oxycodone.

In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the pharmaceutical industry is subject to stringent regulation and marketing to doctors is strictly limited. However, with ageing populations, reports show these countries have some of the highest rates of chronic non-cancer pain in the world. As a result, the demand for prescription opioids has risen significantly, raising the question of whether the Nordic countries could be headed towards an opioid epidemic like the United States.

To investigate this issue, researchers from each of the three countries analyzed twelve years of opioid prescription data. Their research is presented in the article "Prescribed opioid analgesic use developments in three Nordic countries, 2006-2017" by Ashley Elizabeth Muller, Thomas Clausen, Per Sjøgren, Ingvild Odsbu, and Svetlana Skurtveit, published in De Gruyter's journal Scandinavian Journal of Pain.

The study focused on outpatients only, excluding drugs administered in hospitals and nursing homes. The intention was to capture people more likely to be receiving opioids for non-cancer pain, rather than at the end of their lives or following surgery or other trauma.

The researchers established that oxycodone prescriptions are on the increase in all three countries. In Sweden, the number of people with an outpatient prescription for oxycodone has more than tripled since 2006.

In recent years, Norway liberalized the regulation of opioid prescriptions for chronic non-cancer pain and the study showed that one in eight Norwegian women and one in eleven Norwegian men received a prescription opioid outside of a hospital in 2017. In addition, forensic analysis shows that prescription opioids are increasingly involved in deadly overdoses.

The authors posit that it is crucial to avoid overdose deaths caused by prescription opioids and that their use should be curtailed.

"As a general rule, these strong prescriptions should not be used for chronic non-cancer pain", says study author Ashley Elizabeth Muller from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. "It's easy to get complacent and think the United States is so different, so their situation isn't applicable to us. Yet oxycodone is prescribed more and more."
Read the full article here:

De Gruyter

Related Public Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing
In response to a new federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in federally funded public housing authorities, three public health experts applaud the efforts of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect nonsmoking residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure.
The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children
The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.
Social sciences & health innovations: Making health public
The international conference 'Social Sciences & Health Innovations: Making Health Public' is the third event organized as a collaborative endeavor between Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and Tomsk State University, the Russian Federation, with participation from Siberian State Medical University (the Russian Federation).
Columbia Mailman School Awards Public Health Prize to NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T.
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was awarded the Frank A.
Poor health literacy a public health issue
America's poor record on health literacy is a public health issue, but one that can be fixed -- not by logging onto the internet but by increased interaction with your fellow human beings, a Michigan State University researcher argues.
Despite health law's bow to prevention, US public health funding is dropping: AJPH study
Although the language of the Affordable Care Act emphasizes disease prevention -- for example, mandating insurance coverage of clinical preventive services such as mammograms -- funding for public health programs to prevent disease have actually been declining in recent years.
'Chemsex' needs to become a public health priority
Chemsex -- sex under the influence of illegal drugs -- needs to become a public health priority, argue experts in The BMJ this week.

Related Public Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...