We're prescribing opioids less, but for longer

Adapted from a Journal of the American Medical Association report; Cartogram: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

How we prescribe opioids changed between 2006 and 2017 and varies state by state, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The bad news: The average duration per prescription and the prescribing rate of long-term opioid prescriptions increased.

  • "Duration of use is the strongest predictor of opioid use disorder and overdose," the study's authors write. Every additional week that someone uses opioids, there's a 20% increased risk of developing an opioid use disorder or having an overdose.

The good news: Between 2006 and 2017, the amount of opioids prescribed per person decreased, as did the prescribing rate for high-dosage opioids, short-term opioid prescriptions, and extended-release and long-acting opioid formulations.

  • High dosages and longer-acting formulations also increase a person's risk of becoming addicted or overdosing.
  • The decline in short-term opioid prescriptions could mean that providers are encouraging other forms of pain management.

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