Research has found that hospital treatment for those misusing opioid prescription painkillers, such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone, has increased 137% in Missouri the past decade. Study author Mat Reidhead with the Missouri Hospital Association said the data on the Midwest is particularly alarming.
“The highest rate of increase of opioid overuse in the country was by far in a way in the Midwest. Looking at our data, we would have to assume that Missouri was a large contributor to that growth,” said Reidhead.
He said overuse is happening in both rural and urban areas.
“The highest rates of opioid overuse have remained in the metro areas but it’s startling to see that the fastest increases have occurred in more rural areas,” said Reidhead.
Northeast and southeast Missouri exceeded the treatment-for-misuse rates of both the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas.
The highest rate of growth was among white males under age 30. However, significant increases were found in each age and gender category. The smallest rate of increase was among women older than 50, with a 116% increase.
Reidhead said there’s not enough awareness about the overuse of such drugs.
“Judging by the trends that we’ve seen over the last ten years where we’ve seen more than doubling of the number of hospitalizations for this issue in the state, nearly exclusively increases year in and year out, averaging a 12% annual increase. If the awareness was there I don’t think we’d be seeing those types of trends,” said Reidhead. “There really isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s going to require a lot of coordination from the healthcare provider community, policy makers and other stakeholders in the communities to reverse these trends.”
He said there’s a strong link between opioid abuse and heroin addiction. Approximately 42,000 Missourians are believed to be overusing opioid painkillers.