• By Dana Sparks

Mayo Clinic Minute: The face of prescription opioid addiction

May 3, 2018

Prescription drug abuse is contributing to the opioid overdose epidemic in the U.S., and the face of addiction is changing.

“The setting in which opioids are provided has changed dramatically,” says Dr. Mike Hooten, a Mayo Clinic pain management specialist.

More than 40 percent of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription opioid. And deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than 1999. These statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The most common drugs involved in overdose deaths are methadone, oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin), and hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin). And the CDC says that overdose rates were highest among people 25–54. Rates were higher in non-Hispanic white, American Indian or Alaska Native populations, versus non-Hispanic black and Hispanic populations.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, reporter Vivien Williams talks with Dr. Hooten about opioid use, abuse and accidental overdose.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script.

The face of addiction is changing. What once seemed relegated to desperate souls hiding in the shadows now impacts our friends, families and coworkers. More people are addicted to opioid painkillers than ever before.

"I believe that in the past 20 years, the indication and the setting in which opioids are provided has changed dramatically," says Dr. Hooten, who also adds that’s good and bad.

People are able to get relief from severe pain, but they’re also able to get prescriptions for opioids when less addictive options such as ibuprofen may work just as well.

"If they are predisposed to develop addiction, either neurobiologically or from a behavioral perspective, then all of a sudden, we are selecting the individuals who may go on to have long-term problems," says Dr. Hooten.

And with addiction comes the possibility of accidental overdose. Every day 78 people in the U.S. die from opioid-related overdoses. Dr. Hooten says educating people about the dangers of opioid misuse may be an important step in managing this public health crisis.