Trends in opioid analgesic abuse and mortality in the United States

Richard C. Dart, Hilary L. Surratt, Theodore J. Cicero, Mark W. Parrino, S. Geoff Severtson, Becki Bucher-Bartelson, Jody L. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

762 Scopus citations


Background The use of prescription opioid medications has increased greatly in the United States during the past two decades; in 2010, there were 16,651 opioid-related deaths. In response, hundreds of federal, state, and local interventions have been implemented. We describe trends in the diversion and abuse of prescription opioid analgesics using data through 2013. Methods We used five programs from the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction- Related Surveillance (RADARS) System to describe trends between 2002 and 2013 in the diversion and abuse of all products and formulations of six prescription opioid analgesics: oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, morphine, and tramadol. The programs gather data from drug-diversion investigators, poison centers, substance-abuse treatment centers, and college students. Results Prescriptions for opioid analgesics increased substantially from 2002 through 2010 in the United States but then decreased slightly from 2011 through 2013. In general, RADARS System programs reported large increases in the rates of opioid diversion and abuse from 2002 to 2010, but then the rates flattened or decreased from 2011 through 2013. The rate of opioid-related deaths rose and fell in a similar pattern. Reported nonmedical use did not change significantly among college students. Conclusions Postmarketing surveillance indicates that the diversion and abuse of prescription opioid medications increased between 2002 and 2010 and plateaued or decreased between 2011 and 2013. These findings suggest that the United States may be making progress in controlling the abuse of opioid analgesics. Copyright + 2015 Massachusetts Medical Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-248
Number of pages8
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 15 2015


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