Thursday, March 16, 2017

U.S. leads world in opioid use, and goes easy on drug makers and distributors, U.N. agency says

Post graphic of top 25 opioid consuming countries
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is by far the worst in the world, says a report by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board. The opioid epidemic is a major concern in rural areas, especially in Appalachia. West Virginia had the nation's highest age-adjusted death rate for drug overdoses in 2014 and 2015, the last years for which rates have been computed. Ohio had the most overall opioid deaths in 2014.

U.N. data show that the U.S. consumes nearly twice as much opioids as any other country, Keith Humphreys reports for The Washington Post. The U.S. has a daily dose of 50,000 opioids per million people, based on standard dosages. Canada is second at just over 30,000, followed by Germany at about 26,000. When it comes to hydrocodone, the U.S. consumes 99 percent of the world's supply.

"Unlike most of the developed world, the U.S. puts minimal constraints on aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies," Humphreys writes. Also, "When federal drug agents began holding opioid distribution companies accountable for shipping massive numbers of opioids to pill mills, lobbyists from the industry successfully pressured the Justice Department’s leadership to curtail the investigation."

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