In one of the first research studies focused on privately insured patients with opioid problems, researchers uncovered an epidemic of misuse. Researchers found that medical services for patients with opioid dependence diagnoses catapulted by more than 3,000 percent between 2007 and 2014.
The study used claims data from insurers representing over 140 million people, and searched for diagnosis codes associated with opioid dependency and abuse, heroin use, and complications produced by the misuse or abuse of other types of opiates, reports CNN.
Researchers found that the diagnosis of opioid dependency triggers a series of medical services, including office visits, lab tests and other medical treatments. They found that the amount of these services for patients with an opioid dependency diagnosis spiraled from approximately 217,000 in 2007 up to about 7 million in 2014, an increase of over 3,000 percent.
“A 3,000 percent increase is enormous,” said Andrew Kolodny, a senior scientist at Brandeis University. Such a fast increase in a short period of time is a classic definition of an epidemic, said Kolodny.
In July, President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which intends to make drug prevention and treatment more available in America.
A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that marijuana legalization helps reduce opioid-related use and overdoses. Death records from a period of 1999 – 2010 were analyzed in states where medical marijuana is legal, and researchers found that these states had a 25 percent decrease in opioid-induced overdoses.