Sales of opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, have increased more than 600% since 1997, according to data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Opioid analgesic sales increased from 96 milligrams per person in 1997 to 698 milligrams per person in 2007. During the same time period, the number of unintentional deaths involving opioid analgesics quadrupled, from 2,901 in
1999 to 11,499 in 2007 (the most recent year for which data are available). The increase in deaths and sales are highly correlated (r=0.99), supporting previous research1 showing a strong, statistically significant correlation between states with the highest drug-poisoning mortality rates and states with the highest overall per capita sales of opioid analgesics. These findings suggest that the increased sales of opioid analgesics over the past decade may have inadvertently contributed to increases in opioid analgesic overdose deaths.
SOURCES: Adapted by CESAR from Paulozzi, L.J., Weisler, R.H., and Patkar, A.A., A National Epidemic of Unintentional Prescription Opioid Overdose Deaths: How Physicians Can Help Control It, [published online ahead of print April 19, 2011], Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2011; and Baldwin, G. and Paulozzi, L.J., The Epidemic of Prescription Drug Overdoses, PowerPoint presentation provided by NCIPC, 5/23/
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