July Opioid Awareness Month Article: Prescription Opioid Misuse Awareness
Prescription opioid misuse remains a major issue in the United States. While there have been encouraging signs of declining use, there is still much work to be done. In 2018, past-year prescription pain reliever misuse nationally was 3.6 percent. Although this was a decline from 4.1 percent in 2017, prescription pain relievers were still the most commonly used substance behind alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Also in 2018, there were 12,552 fatal prescription opioid-involved overdoses in the United States. This was a decline from 2017, and lower than the numbers of heroin- or fentanyl-involved fatal overdoses in 2018. However, it is still over four times as many fatal overdoses as there were in 2000, before the opioid epidemic had fully begun. Provisional data and other indicators suggest these positive trends likely continued in 2019. However, even if this is confirmed, prescription opioid misuse will still be a major issue, particularly among vulnerable populations.
Much of the decline in misuse and fatal overdoses has been from improvements among White populations. Some other populations—especially African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American and Alaskan Native—had much smaller declines, or even increases, in rates of misuse or fatal overdoses from 2016 to 2018. Prevention professionals should ensure they are serving all populations in need in their communities and identify and implement evidence-based and promising practices that can serve vulnerable populations. Strategies with evidence of effectiveness should be thoroughly assessed to determine if they are applicable to all populations, or what modifications may be needed. Prevention professionals must also learn more about whether the unique risk factors for prescription opioid misuse have differing impacts among various populations.
SAMSHA has developed numerous products to support prescription opioid misuse prevention efforts. Training and technical assistance on this and other prevention topics is available through the Central East Prevention Technology Transfer Center.