The cost of treating opioid addiction and overdoses has increased eight-fold since 2004 to an eye-watering $2.6 billion in 2016, a new report reveals.
More than half of that cost was spent covering employees’ children.
And yet, the analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found, prescription use of addictive painkillers among people with employers-based health coverage declined to its lowest levels in 10 years.
The finding comes just days after a CDC study revealed there was been a nearly 30 percent uptick in overdoses between 2015 and 2016.
A new report revealed that employers spent $2.6 billion on opioid addiction and overdoses even though the prescription use of the drug among people with health coverage has significantly declined
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record.
About 40 percent of those deaths involved a prescription opioid such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.
The report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the $2.6 billion spending cost companies and workers about $26 per enrollee in 2016.
Employers have been limiting insurance coverage of opioids because of concerns about addiction.
The report found that spending on opioid prescriptions falling 27 percent from a peak in 2009 – when 17.3 percent of large employer plan enrollees had at least one opioid prescription during that year.
However, by 2016, that number dropped to 13.6 percent.
These drugs relieve pain by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body.
When they attach to these receptors, they reduce the perception of pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Opioid drugs killed more than 42,000 people in 2016
HOW AMERICA GOT HOOKED ON OPIOID DRUGS
Prescription opioids and illicit drugs have become incredibly pervasive throughout the US, and things are only getting worse.
In the early 2000s, the FDA and CDC started to notice a steady increase in cases of opioid addiction and overdose. In 2013, they issued guidelines to curb addiction.
However, that same year – now regarded as the year the epidemic took hold – a CDC report revealed an unprecedented surge in rates of opioid addiction.
Overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death among young Americans – killing more in a year than were ever killed annually by HIV, gun violence or car crashes.
Preliminary CDC data published by the New York Times shows US drug overdose deaths surged 19 percent to at least 59,000 in 2016.
That is up from 52,404 in 2015, and double the death rate a decade ago.
It means that for the first time drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old.
The data lays bare the bleak state of America’s opioid addiction crisis fueled by deadly manufactured drugs like fentanyl.
These drugs also effect the brain regions involved in reward, so it can also produce a sense of pleasure by triggering the same processes that make people feel good when they are having fun or sex.
Experts say many people’s first contact with opioids is through some form of social contact: either a friend who was sent home with Oxycontin after a surgical procedure or a relative who received an opioid prescription for chronic pain.
‘Opioids are not infectious in terms of [being] an agent,’ Columbia University epidemiologist Dr Guohua Li previously told Daily Mail Online.
‘Opioids, are not a bacteria virus, but the drug, in this case, spreads through social networks…even in some ways a virus, like HIV, is spread to a great degree through social networks,’ he added.
Due to the link between hospitals and the opioid crisis, doctors have been coming up with innovative ways to curb the epidemic.
However, hospitals have been doing their part in trying to curb the opioid epidemic.
For instance, the ER department at St. Joseph University Medical Center in New Jersey managed to halve the rate of opioid prescriptions by using dry needles and laughing gas to treat chronic pain.
In 2016, the department launched an Alternative to Opiates program that uses trigger point injections and a local anesthetics in lieu of opioids to relieve pain.
Other alternative pain relieving methods they used was warm compressors and music – they have a harpist roam the halls playing tunes to soothe the patients.
Dr Mark Rosenberg, chair of emergency medicine, said he and his colleagues founded the program after they realized chronic pain was one of the reasons most patients came to their emergency department.
‘We wanted to develop an aggressive acute pain management program that focused on evidence based principles but avoided opioids,’ Dr Rosenberg said.
St. Joseph University Medical Center isn’t the only hospital to implement this program, Kaiser Permanente has implemented an Integrated Pain Service, an eight-week course designed to educate high-risk opioid patients about pain management.
Experts believe the beginning of the end of the epidemic may be near due to tightened regulations on opioid prescription monitoring, local-level efforts to make naloxone, an anti-overdose drug, and drug-assisted rehabilitation more accessible to high-risk populations.
The efforts in addition to federal intervention could help curb the crisis.