One of the United States’ top insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, reported that new opioid addiction diagnoses had dropped. Blue Cross Blue Shield insures 1 in 3 Americans, which mean this data might signal a turning point in the opioid epidemic.
There are an estimated 2 million people in the US alone with an opioid use disorder, either by prescription painkillers or illicit drugs like heroin or fentanyl. Many opioid addictions begin after being legitimately prescribed painkillers by a doctor. Opioids are highly addictive though, and once their prescriptions run out people turn to other means to satisfy their addiction. The US shut down most of their Pill Mills a few years ago, leading to a surge of heroin and fentanyl usage, which has a high overdose rate.
The good news is that the Blue Cross report found there was around a 5% decline in opioid addiction diagnoses in 2017. This is the first recorded decline in years. Although Blue Cross is optimistic, they still encourage the medical community to remain vigilant. The report also showed the highest rates of opioid addiction was in New England, Appalachian, and the South.
One reason opioid addictions might be dropping is that there has been a decline in the number of opioid prescriptions, which has fallen 29% since 2013. This drop is due to tighter new CDC guidelines, which encourage doctors against prescribing opioid painkillers. A recent study showed that around 7 out of 10 doctors have cut back on opioid prescriptions in the past two years. Mississippi, Ohio, and New England have seen the biggest decline in prescriptions.
Although this decline is good, it’s still modest. There are still millions in America struggling with opioid addiction. Death certificate data from the CDC suggests around 48,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017, which was an 8% increase from the year before.
This study brings hope that this epidemic will end. Citizens still need to remain vigilant though. We encourage anyone struggling with opioid addiction to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact us.