Objectives: To quantify the prevalence of opioid drug dependence and abuse in United States between 2017 and 2018 and identify which opioid molecules are associated with a higher level of dependence and abuse.
Design: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data for 2017 and 2018 have been extracted. The variables related to painkillers were studied, the most important ones were selected, and several variable crosses were made. After the data were extracted, they were analyzed using Microsoft Excel and PivotTables, calculating the relative prevalence and percentages of patients with abuse and dependence.
Results: In total, 1.4 million people had dependence on pain relievers (PRs) in 2018. The last PR used was mostly hydrocodone (33 percent) and oxycodone (24 percent). The main reasons for using a PR without a doctor's prescription were relieving pain (48 percent), feel good (16 percent), and relax or relieve tension (15 percent). Among patients who used a PR with a medical prescription, 1.5 million used it more frequently than prescribed, 1.2 million used it longer than prescribed, and 1.9 million used it in higher amounts than prescribed.
Conclusions: Abuse and dependence to PRs is lower than expected with over 1.4 million people in the United States having dependence in 2018 (0.6 percent point prevalence). Most cases of dependence are associated with misuse or abuse of prescriptions without medical supervision or the use of medications without a prescription of their own. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the molecules most associated with dependence, misuse, abuse, and use without prescription. The age of onset of oxycodone misuse is very early (14 years old). Fentanyl does not seem relevant in any of the variables studied.