Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Global Problem of Opioid Consumption

More than one million Belgians took an opioid in 2017. This has led the Belgian magazine Medor to take a close look at the consumption of opioids around the world and in particular at the rise of opioid consumption in Belgium.

The Pain of the Belgians uses a series of maps and charts to explain the rise of opioid use and where this rise is being seen around the world. The USA leads the world in the consumption of opioids. In terms of average intake the USA is closely followed by Germany, Austria, Canada and Belgium (in that order). In Belgium one in ten people have now been prescribed an opioid. The problem is particular bad in the provinces of Walloon. However Flemish provinces are catching up fast and have seen the biggest increases in opioid use since 2010.

Medor conclude that there is a partial link between unemployment rates in Belgium and high opioid use.

BuzzFeed has mapped the US Counties Prescribing Way More Opioids Than Others. The map shows that doctors are prescribing opioids heavily in many areas which are experiencing high unemployment rates, such as Appalachia. The BuzzFeed article quotes the CDC as saying that the higher prescribing counties are often marked by higher rates of arthritis, diabetes and unemployment. It therefore looks like some of the same socio-economic factors are at play in U.S. prescription rates as in Belgian.

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