Prescription drug abuse may be on the decline in the U.S. after two decades of steady growth, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, but researchers caution that some users may have shifted to heroin use.
Researchers examined data from five drug abuse monitoring programs that combined assess hundreds of thousands of drug abuse patients.
“(The programs) reported large increases in the rates of opioid diversion and abuse from 2002 to 2010, but then the rates flattened or decreased from 2011 through 2013,” according to the study.
There were more than 16,000 prescription drug-related deaths in 2010, according to the study.
Researchers noted that since 2010 a wave of local and federal legislation has likely been effective in combatting prescription drug abuse, but they warned that their data also points to another disturbing trend: heroin-related deaths more than doubled, according to the study, from a rate of about 0.014 per 100,000 in 2010, to about 0.030 per 100,000 in 2013.
The full study is available for purchase HERE.