What is the prevalence of opioid abuse in the US?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: David W Dixon, DO; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

Since the 1990s, opioid use and abuse have risen markedly in the United States. The increased abuse has coincided with the availability of high-purity heroin, which allows users to begin use by snorting or smoking rather than by IV administration. Moreover, increased opioid abuse has coincided with a controversial US campaign against undertreatment of pain that has caused an enormous increase in opioid prescriptions; the growth of prescription opioid abuse has been particularly explosive. The following statistics dramatically illustrate this problem:

  • Americans constitute 4.6% of the world’s population, but consume approximately 80% of the world’s opioid supply [12]

  • Americans consume 99% of the world’s supply of hydrocodone (the opioid component of Vicodin)

  • Americans consume roughly two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs


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