News from the FDA/CDC

Use of nonopioid pain meds is on the rise


Opioid and nonopioid prescription pain medications have taken different journeys since 2009, but they ended up in the same place in 2018, according to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Past 30-day use among adults aged 20 years and older

At least by one measure, anyway. Survey data from 2009 to 2010 show that 6.2% of adults aged 20 years and older had taken at least one prescription opioid in the last 30 days and 4.3% had used a prescription nonopioid without an opioid. By 2017-2018, past 30-day use of both drug groups was 5.7%, Craig M. Hales, MD, and associates said in an NCHS data brief.

“Opioids may be prescribed together with nonopioid pain medications, [but] nonpharmacologic and nonopioid-containing pharmacologic therapies are preferred for management of chronic pain,” the NCHS researchers noted.

The increase in prescription nonopioid use over the entire 10-year period managed to reach statistical significance, as did the short-term increase in nonopioids from 2015-2016 to 2017-2018, but the 10-year trend for opioids was not significant, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Much of the analysis focused on 2015-2018, when 30-day use of any prescription pain medication was reported by 10.7% of adults aged 20 years and older, with use of opioids at 5.7% and nonopioids at 5.0%. For women, use of any pain drug was 12.6% (6.4% opioid, 6.2% nonopioid) from 2015 to 2018, compared with 8.7% for men (4.9%, 3.8%), Dr. Hales and associates reported.

Past 30-day use of both opioids and nonopioids over those 4 years was highest for non-Hispanic whites and lowest, by a significant margin for both drug groups, among non-Hispanic Asian adults, a pattern that held for both men and women, they said.

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