Introduction to the opioid epidemic: the economic burden on the healthcare system and impact on quality of life

Am J Manag Care. 2018 May;24(10 Suppl):S200-S206.


Opioid analgesics are commonly used to treat acute and chronic pain; in 2016 alone, more than 60 million patients had at least 1 prescription for opioid analgesics filled or refilled. Despite the ubiquitous use of these agents, the effectiveness of long-term use of opioids for chronic noncancer pain management is questionable, yet links among long-term use, addiction, and overdose deaths are well established. Because of overprescribing and misuse, an opioid epidemic has developed in the United States. The health and economic burdens of opioid abuse on individuals, their families, and society are substantial. Part 1 of this supplement will provide a background on the burden of pain and the impact of opioid abuse on individuals, their families, and society; the attempts to remedy this burden through prescription opioid use; and the eventual downward spiral into the current opioid epidemic, including an overview of opioid analgesics and opioid use disorder and the rise in opioid-related deaths.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Epidemics / economics*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / economics*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Quality of Life*
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid