, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 277-279
Date: 31 Aug 2012

The Worldwide Opioid Epidemic

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1. Scope of the Problem

The use of opioids has increased dramatically in the 21st century. Recent reports from North America,[1,2] China,[3] Australia,[4] UK,[5] Europe,[6] Russia,[7] and India[8] describe what has become a worldwide epidemic. The most recent estimate cites over 1.7 million individuals in the US aged 12 years or older who are dependent on, or abuse, prescription pain medications.[9] It has been estimated that 8% of the population of Afghanistan, the main source of the world’s opium, is addicted to drugs, mainly opium or heroin.[10]

With the possible exception of alcohol, the effect of drugs of abuse, including opioids, on the developing fetus and newborn has not received as much attention as the adult population.[11] In the US in 2004 and 2005 the rate of illicit drug use during pregnancy was 3.5%.[11] It has been estimated that in 2009 the US public health and medical costs associated with neonates who were exposed to opioids in utero was between $US70.6 and $US112.6 mi ...