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STUDY: More than half of opioid prescriptions written for adults with mental illness

Prescribing statistics raise concerns about opioid addictions

More than 7 million people with mental illnesses are prescribed opioids each year, according to a new study.
More than 7 million people with mental illnesses are prescribed opioids each year, according to a new study.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Fifty-one percent of opioid medications prescribed in the United States are given to adults with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, according to research from the University of Michigan and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Read more: Opioid addiction rates continue to skyrocket

According to researchers, of the 115 million prescriptions written for opiates each year, 60 million are for adults with mental illness.

"Despite representing only 16 percent of the adult population, adults with mental health disorders receive more than half of all opioid prescriptions distributed each year in the United States," said Matthew Davis, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing.

Of the 38.6 million Americans diagnosed with mental health disorders, more than 7 million of those people are prescribed opioids each year.

The number of people with mental illnesses who are also prescribed opioids, 18 percent, compares to five percent of adults without mental illnesses who are likely to use prescription opioids, according to researchers.

"Because of the vulnerable nature of patients with mental illness, such as their susceptibility for opioid dependency and abuse, this finding warrants urgent attention to determine if the risks associated with such prescribing are balanced with therapeutic benefits," said study co-author Brian Sites, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

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