The study was focused on a large cohort on people who either buy self-insurance or have job-based insurance. President of Fair Health, Robin Gelburd said that the research findings indicate the magnitude nature of the opioid problem. He questioned whether the health system is well equipped to handle this medical services tsunami.

How the study was conducted

Researchers based their study on de-identified claims data presented by insurers who represent 150 million patients. They looked for diagnosis codes associated with dependency on opioid, adverse effects of heroine usage, misuse and problems linked to the misuse or the abuse of other types of opiates. The other opiates are prescribed by a health practitioner, but heroine is a street drug.

The study discovered that 2011 saw the highest increase in the dependence on opioid. This is the period when the problem attracted attention and various calls were made on the doctors to lower the prescription for opioid.

Younger patients aged between 19 and 35 years were the most diagnosed as dependants on opioid compared to the elderly counterparts. Some of the symptoms that indicate dependence include unable to withdraw and increased tolerance. The study found out that the younger patients stood the highest chance of overdosing heroin while the older patients were more likely to overdose opioid. The consequences for this were likely to manifest in the mid-40s and mid-50s.

Various medical services were kicked off by opioid dependency and these include lab tests, office visits and other treatments associated to it. According to the report, the patients diagnosed skyrocketed to 7 million in 2014 from 217,000 in 2007. Even those already familiar with the matter were stunned by the scope of the increase.

The increase is enormous

Andrew Kolodny, senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University said that an increase of 3000 percent is enormous. He was not part of the team analyzing the data.

He said that the short period of time recorded a sharp rise that illustrates an epidemic. This is an indication that more effort is required to stop further infection and treat those already addicted to the problem.

However, experts have warned that using claims data to research is helpful in tracking how health services are used but cannot give an accurate picture of the situation. The claims codes may not be as accurate and in the case of opioid problem, more code use may have occurred. There are some researches which use both claims data and doctor’s notes but this one did not.

The report also found out that men stood the higher chance of being diagnosed with dependency than the women.
It was also found that more women would take an overdose than the men while the opioid dependence compared to other substance abuse was different across all states. Montana and Maine had the lowest ratio while Rhodes Island had the highest.