(May 20, 2019 / JNS) Israel is the fastest-rising opioid medication user in the developed world, according to a disturbing new OECD report.
According to the report, which was released on May 16 under the title, “Addressing Problematic Opioid Use in OECD Countries,” data from 2014-2016 put Israel in 11th place out of 37 OECD countries for opioid use, a 13 percent increase from 2013, when Israel ranked 24th. However, Israel leads the pack when it comes to the rate of increase in opioid use—from 2011-2013 to 2014-2016 Israel experienced a 125 percent increase.
The report explains that “opioids are a type of narcotic medication that have become the basis of therapy for moderate to severe pain in many developed countries,” and goes on to say that prescriptions of opioid analgesics have been steadily rising in OECD countries, including for “chronic, non-malignant pain.” The report points to over-prescription of opioids as one of the main contributing factors in the growth of problematic opioid use.
In the 2014-16 period, among the countries above the OECD average in availability of analgesic opioids only four saw decreased use: the United States (-12.9 percent), Belgium (-7.3 percent), Denmark (-18.2 percent) and Australia (-10.9 percent).
Israeli supporters of medicinal cannabis have argued that the Israeli health system is quick to prescribe opioid analgesics and encourages their use for an extended period before prescribing medicinal marijuana.
The report revealed that some 87,000 Israelis use opioid analgesics on a daily basis.
Information on opioid-related deaths is apparently not collected in Israel, but in the 25 OECD countries in which such data is collected, the average rate of opioid-related deaths has increased by 20 percent in recent years. In the United States, between 1999 and 2017, 399,230 people died from an opioid overdose.
Israel’s Health Ministry has reportedly established a committee to address the issue.