Understanding the Opioid Epidemic to Improve Pain Management
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is estimated that nearly 650,000 people have died from an overdose involving opioids, leading to the worst drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history. Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, fentanyl, and pain relievers like oxycodone, which have all contributed to the ongoing epidemic. As the crisis progressed, those studying its cause began to realize that decision within the health care to prioritize access to pain relief, led to our current situation. In other words, there was a change within the health care system to prioritize access to pain relief, leading to our current opioid crisis.
Formed in 2013, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention has focused largely on the opioid overdose epidemic. To get a better understanding, they’ve emphasized observing any patterns of diagnosis and treatment for common pain conditions compared to diagnosis and treatment for opioid use disorder. In 2019, the Consortium requested a Custom (de-identified) Dataset from the CO APCD, with four questions in mind to answer:
- What is the prevalence of common pain conditions in the insured population in Colorado and what pain management methods do the insured population with these conditions receive?
- What is the cost of treatment for acute and chronic pain conditions paid by health plans and the type/setting of the treatment?
- What is the prevalence of opioid use disorder (OUD) in the insured population in Colorado and what treatment methods do the insured population with OUD receive?
- What is the cost of treatment for OUD paid by health plans and the type/setting of the treatment?
The Consortium planned to compare data from three different sources for this particular project. Using results from Colorado’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health would help provide an estimate of the number of Coloradans who are receiving treatment for an OUD. Data from the Colorado Department of Human Services would help provide an estimate of the number of Coloradans who received publicly funded treatment, and the CO APCD would provide an overall estimate of the number of Coloradans receiving treatment for OUD.
With these three datasets, the Consortium could then provide an estimate of the number of Coloradans who have an OUD but did not receive treatment. The ultimate goal of this project is to help improve education and awareness surrounding OUD with the hopes that policymakers and health systems can use this information to improve pain management and addiction treatment in the long run.