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1 in 10 seniors, 6 percent of adults use opioid painkillers in U.S.

A CDC survey found that roughly 6 percent of people over 20 in the U.S. use prescription opioids, that use increases with age and that women use opioids more than men.

By
Brian P. Dunleavy
New CDC survey data shows a slight decrease in overall opioid painkiller use in the U.S. during the last decade, but researchers say it is not significant. Photo by jorono/Pixabay
New CDC survey data shows a slight decrease in overall opioid painkiller use in the U.S. during the last decade, but researchers say it is not significant. Photo by jorono/Pixabay

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Nearly one in ten U.S. adults 60 years of age and older are using prescription opioids, suggesting ongoing use of the drugs across the country, a new analysis has found.

New figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics show that more than 6 percent of all American adults 20 and older reported using the prescription painkillers in the past 30 days between 2013 and 2016.

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The findings, based on responses to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, come in spite of risks for addiction and a spate of overdose deaths associated with them.

"Opioid-involved overdose deaths have emerged as an important public health issue, and it is important to monitor prescription opioid analgesic use to better understand the use of opioids in the U.S. population," NCHS researcher and study co-author Steven M. Frenk told UPI.

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According to Frenk, the analysis is actually a follow-up to a similar report published in 2015, which used data from the NHANES survey for the years 1999 through 2012. That analysis found a slightly higher rate of opioid use among all U.S. adults -- 6.9 percent -- but the difference isn't significant enough to suggest that fewer Americans are taking the drugs.

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In general, Frenk said, "use of prescription opioid analgesics among adults varies by age, sex, and race." For example, usage rates increased from 3.2 percent for younger adults between 20 and 39 years of age, to 7.5 percent for "middle-aged adults" between 40 and 59 years of age, to 9.6 percent among those 60 years of age and older.

Additionally, 7.6 percent of women reported using the drugs compared to 5.3 percent of men. And, age-adjusted opioid use was higher among non-Hispanic white adults, at 6.6 percent, and non-Hispanic black adults, at 6.7 percent, than non-Hispanic Asian adults, at 2 percent, and Hispanic adults, at 5.3 percent.

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"The CDC has a response to the opioid overdose epidemic that includes prescribing guidelines, clinical guidance and information about treatment for opioid use for healthcare providers," Frenk said. "The guidelines for prescription of opioids focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain."

The most recent CDC statistics available suggest that roughly one in five Americans has been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition.

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