Uptick in US Nonopioid Pain Med Prescriptions

Megan Brooks

June 24, 2020

About 1 in 10 adults in the United States take prescription medication to manage pain, according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The data also suggest there has been an uptick in the use of nonopioid prescription pain medicine in the United States in recent years, with no marked change in use of opioid prescription pain medicine.

Craig M. Hales, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the NCHS analyzed cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

In 2015–2018, 10.7% of US adults reported using one or more opioid or nonopioid prescription pain medications in the past 30 days, the researchers report in a data brief published online June 24.

Use of prescription pain medicine increased with age, from 5.4% among adults aged 20 to 39 years, to 12.7% for those 40 to 59 years, to 15.1% for those 60 and older.

Use of prescription pain medication was higher among women than men (12.6% vs 8.7%) and in all age groups. Prescription pain medication use increased with age in both men and women.

Overall, prescription pain medication use was highest among non-Hispanic white (11.6%) and non-Hispanic black adults (10.1%) and was lowest among Hispanic adults (8.5%) and non-Hispanic Asian adults (4.5%). This pattern of prescription pain medication use was observed in both men and women.

By drug type, in 2015–2018, 5.7% of US adults reported using prescription opioids, and 5.0% reported using nonopioid prescription pain medications in the past 30 days.

Use of one or more prescription opioids and use of nonopioid prescription pain medications (without prescription opioids) was higher among women than men and increased with age.

Use of prescription opioid and nonopioid pain medication was lowest among non-Hispanic Asian adults and was lower among Hispanic adults compared with non-Hispanic white adults.

A trends analysis indicates that from 2009–2010 through 2017–2018, there was no significant increase in the use of prescription opioids, whereas the use of nonopioid prescription pain medications (without prescription opioids) increased, from 4.3% in 2009–2010 to 5.7% in 2017–2018.

NCHS. Data Brief 369. Published online June 24, 2020. Full text

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