Recent data shows that more than one-third of American adults, approximately 92 million people, used prescription opioids in 2015. More than 12% of these adults reported misusing them, with about 40% of them reporting that they received the drugs directly from family or friends.
Figure 1 presents the number of opioid-related deaths in the US from 2007–2016.
Opioids are a highly common form of treatment for pain and have been widely prescribed, even for mild procedures, over the last decade. The highly addictive drugs claimed more than 50,000 lives in the US in 2016, and the opioid death epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. The wide availability of the prescription drug only fuels its rampant misuse.
Efforts are being made in the US to curtail the amount of drugs being made available to people, including new legislation that has recently passed through the US Congress. This new bill would allow hospice workers to destroy any unused opiates left over after a patient’s death. This bill has been put forward with the hope that it will limit the possibility of drugs being handed over to family members for whom they were not prescribed. Beneficial as this legislation may be, it is just one part of what will need to be a multifaceted approach designed to curb the current crisis.