Prescription opioid abuse: a literature review of the clinical and economic burden in the United States

Popul Health Manag. 2014 Dec;17(6):372-87. doi: 10.1089/pop.2013.0098.


Between 2002 and 2007, the nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers grew from 11.0 million to 12.5 million people in the United States. Societal costs attributable to prescription opioid abuse were estimated at $55.7 billion in 2007. The purpose of this study was to comprehensively review the recent clinical and economic evaluations of prescription opioid abuse. A comprehensive literature search was conducted for studies published from 2002 to 2012. Articles were included if they were original research studies in English that reported the clinical and economic burden associated with prescription opioid abuse. A total of 23 studies (183 unique citations identified, 54 articles subjected to full text review) were included in this review and analysis. Findings from the review demonstrated that rates of opioid overdose-related deaths ranged from 5528 deaths in 2002 to 14,800 in 2008. Furthermore, overdose reportedly results in 830,652 years of potential life lost before age 65. Opioid abusers were generally more likely to utilize medical services, such as emergency department, physician outpatient visits, and inpatient hospital stays, relative to non-abusers. When compared to a matched control group (non-abusers), mean annual excess health care costs for opioid abusers with private insurance ranged from $14,054 to $20,546. Similarly, the mean annual excess health care costs for opioid abusers with Medicaid ranged from $5874 to $15,183. The issue of opioid abuse has significant clinical and economic consequences for patients, health care providers, commercial and government payers, and society as a whole.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / poisoning
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Prescription Drugs*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Prescription Drugs