An analysis of privately billed health insurance companies has found that insurance claims related to opioid dependence have risen by a whopping 3,200% from 2007 to 2014. The study was conducted by FAIR Health, a New York City based non-profit corporation that maintains a database of over 2 billion privately billed healthcare claims and provides healthcare cost data and analysis to government agencies, insurers, providers and consumers.

According to the new report, the current epidemic mostly affects the white middle class of US, living in non-urban areas and insured by private insurance companies.

The study was conducted because the US is going through an opioid crisis which has resulted in a significant number of dependences, deaths and misuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999 the number of overdose deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 28,000 deaths in 2014. Drug overdose was the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014.

Of the approximately 17.5 million claims filed from 2007 to 2014, the company found that claims for services related to opioid dependence rose by 3,203% from 217,000 to 7 million.

Opioid dependence included symptoms of dependence, tolerance, withdrawal and inability to unsuccessfully quit despite several attempts, which fall perfectly in line with the symptoms of addiction. Insurance claims for opioid misuse, defined as continued use despite recurring social problems caused by or worsened by opioid use, rose by 317%, from 87,000 to 277,000.

As a result of this new set of circumstances, private insurance reports can now better inform public of the extent of opioid addiction and the effects and consequences of the current opioid epidemic, in addition to previous records related to uninsured individuals and those covered by Medicaid.

The FAIR Health analysis report found that young people were at the most risk of developing an opioid dependence, with the age-group of 19 to 35 years old showing an overwhelming amount of opioid dependence or heroin overdose diagnosis.

This finding was in line with previous discoveries made by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the CDC, which claimed that opioid abuse was most common in young adults. In this age group, 69% of claims were of a nature of opioid dependence diagnosis and 50% related to opioid misuse 31% of claims with the diagnosis of opioid misuse were among people aged 36-55, with 12% aged 13-18, 6% aged 56-65, and only 1% aged over 65, bringing young adults at the forefront of opioid misuse. From 2009 to 2014 the majority of claims for the diagnosis of heroin overdose (78%) were also among young adults, aged 19-35.

Although an increasing number of women are misusing prescription opioids and heroin in the current epidemic, the FAIR Health analysis found that from 2007 to 2014 men in all age groups continued to be at a greater risk of having opioid dependence diagnosed: 67% of claims for opioid dependent patients aged 19-35 were for men, compared to 33% for women. The gender gap narrowed in the age group of 46-55, in which 55% of claims with the diagnosis of opioid dependence were for men, compared to 45% for women.

The data confirmed, the report concluded, that the US opioid crisis has affected most demographic groups, including those who were privately insured. The report said, “To resolve the crisis, participation from all healthcare stakeholders will be necessary—federal, state and local governments, insurers, employers, physicians, hospitals and other providers, researchers, community leaders, and consumers.”

What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. They bind to opioid receptors in the nerve cells in the brain and the nervous system, which causes a release of endorphins giving the sensation of pleasure and effects of pain relief.

Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease, which causes a person’s reward seeking habits to go out of hand, as he constantly seeks pleasure/relief out of such substances and other behaviors.

Given the horrifying statistics about opioid addiction and the high number of deaths related to it, it is necessary to ask what measures have been taken to fight this epidemic.

What Measure Have Been Taken To Fight The Epidemic Opioid Dependence?

Luckily many health policy organizations such as the CDC have developed many new reforms and policies to fight this growing epidemic. CDC released new guidelines for prescribing opioid drugs used for relieving chronic pain, at the end of March 2016.

The guidelines were developed for primary care physicians treating patients diagnosed with chronic pain receiving treatment other than ‘active cancer treatment’, ‘palliative care’, and ‘end-of-life care’.

A team of researchers looked at the effectiveness of buprenorphine implant in treating opioid abuse, as compared to stable opioid-dependent patients receiving daily oral buprenorphine treatment.

The results showed that of out 177 participants over 6 months, 72 of 84 (85.7%) receiving buprenorphine implants and 64 of 89 (71.9%) receiving oral buprenorphine, maintained opioid abstinence.

If similar landmarks are achieved in opioid treatment procedures, this epidemic will be under control sooner rather than later.