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Although the opioid crisis in the U.S. continues to make headlines, a new analysis finds that prescription opioid use has dropped by 60% since 2011 — when prescribing was highest— and by the end of this year, usage is expected to drop to levels not seen in nearly two decades.

On a per capita basis, there were 29 opioid pills used per person in the U.S. last year, a 29% drop from 2011, even though the U.S. population has grown 5.4% since then. And this year, there is a 17% forecasted drop in the number of morphine milligram equivalents, or MME — a measure used to describe potency of the painkillers — from 2019.


Notably, the biggest drop was seen in prescriptions written for 90 MME or more per day – which carry the highest risk of overdose and addiction — with a 70% decline since 2011. The proportion of these high potency prescriptions also fell from 52% in 2011 to 32% in 2019, according to data from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, which is part of the IQVIA market research firm.

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