HL World News: Countries with the Biggest Opioid Problem (Graphics)

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This election season, candidates on both sides of the political spectrum have spoken of their personal experiences with drug addiction, garnering attention in the wake of an epidemic that has touched too many American families.

Beginning on the primary season with then Republican candidate Carly Fiorina lost her stepdaughter to a drug overdose in 2009, and Governor Jeb Bush opening up about his daughter's struggle with addiction. Prescribed opioids and recreational opiates (such as heroin) are primarily to blame for this growing problem.

Opioid abuse has skyrocketed in the past few decades, fueled both by legally prescribed pain medication as well as heroin. In 2014, over 16,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in the United States, and nearly 11,000 more died from heroin overdoses. Law enforcement have taken to public shaming, photographing the victim in the overdose state, to bring light to this epidemic.

How did drug abuse become such a big problem? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that prescription opioid sales in the United States have increased by 300 percent since 1999, but there has not been a significant change in the amount of pain reported by Americans. Basically, Americans are using more medications even though they are not more sick. People become dependent on highly addictive medications like Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and morphine. Once their prescription runs out, they either convince a physician that they need a refill or they turn to illegal opiates like heroin.

With politicians and public health officials scrambling to fight the growing burden of opioid abuse in America, HealthGrove set out to investigate whether this is also an issue at the global level. Using data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, they ranked countries based on the percent of the population using opioids in the past year. The most recent data varies by location and is noted for each country.

#10. Estonia

Prevalence of opioid use in 2008: 1.53%
Drug-related death rate in 2012: 198.1 deaths per million

#9. Islamic Republic of Iran

Prevalence of opioid use in 2010: 2.27%
Adult mortality rate in 2013: 119 per million

#8. Russian Federation

Prevalence of opioid use in 2010: 2.29%
Adult mortality rate in 2013: 232 per million

#7. Seychelles

Prevalence of opioid use in 2011: 2.3%
Drug-related death rate in 2007: 81.6 deaths per million

#6. Pakistan

Prevalence of opioid use in 2012: 2.4%

#5. Czech Republic

Prevalence of opioid use in 2012: 2.7%
Drug-related death rate in 2012: 5.2 deaths per million

#4. Afghanistan

Prevalence of opioid use in 2009: 2.92%
Drug-related death rate in 2009: 8.6 deaths per million

#3. Australia

Prevalence of opioid use in 2013: 3.3%
Drug-related death rate in 2011: 93.1 deaths per million

#2. Serbia

Prevalence of opioid use in 2014: 5.15%
Drug-related death rate in 2008: 20.5 deaths per million

#1. United States

Prevalence of opioid use in 2013: 5.39%
Drug-related death rate in 2011: 190.8 deaths per million

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