Countries composing 15 percent of the world’s population consumed in excess of 95 percent of the world’s opioid painkillers between 2011 and 2013, a recent study showed.

Stefano Berterame, Ph.D., from the Secretariat of the International Narcotics Control Board, Vienna International Centre, and a team of researchers from around the world examined the prevalence of opioids around the world between 2001 and 2013, and concluded that although daily doses of opioid painkillers more than doubled around the world from 2001-2003 and 2011-2013, there was no substantial increase in countries outside of North America, Western and Central Europe, and Oceania.

During the course of the study, daily doses of opioid painkillers in North America increased from 2.4 billion per annum to 5.3 billion per annum, and in Western and Central Europe, the number of daily doses increased from about 0.5 billion to 1.6 billion per annum. “These two regions used 94.1 percent of the analgesic opioids examined in 2011-2013,” researchers wrote. The percentage increased to 95.7 when Oceania was included.

Researchers stated that the most frequently identified impediments for increased opioid painkiller use in mid-to-low income countries included the absence of training, fear of addiction, restricted financial resources, sourcing issues, cultural attitudes, and the fear of diversion.

In East and Southeast Asia, 56 percent of respondents stated that fear of addiction was a concern, which compares to only 17 percent of respondents in Oceania, and 29 percent of respondents in South and West Asia. The fear of diversion was also high (67 percent) in East and Southeast Asia, compared to Western and Central Europe (10 percent).

The biggest impediments for countries in Africa included sourcing issues (55 percent), fear of diversion to illicit channels (45 percent), restricted financial resources (45 percent), and fear of addiction (30 percent). In contrast, the biggest impediments to the use of opioid painkillers in North America were absence of awareness or training (67 percent) and cultural attitudes toward the treatment of pain (33 percent).

In many countries around the world, prescription opioids are… (continue reading)