Pain medications are essential for improving the care and quality of life of more than 100 million adults living with chronic pain in the United States. However, since 1999 both the number of prescription opioids sold in the US and overdose deaths have quadrupled. With over 33,000 deaths in 2015 alone, opioid related overdose has become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
Overdose related symptoms contribute to more than 1000 emergency department visits a day. An estimated 41% of these patients were treated and released without being admitted, while 55% were admitted to the hospital for an average stay of 3.5 days. Consequently, “opioid abuse” costs the healthcare industry over $7.1 billion annually in direct front-end hospital costs. Taking everything into account, including back-end rehabilitation and lost productivity, some estimate an annual cost of over $70 billion.