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Arch Hellen Med, 31(Supplement 1), 2014, 13-18


Opioid dependence – a chronic, relapsing condition with critical health, social and economic consequences

C. Golna,1,2 M. Malliori,3 K. Souliotis,4,5 G.N. Papadimitriou3
1Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology & Medical Statistics at Athens University Medical School, Athens,
2Hepatitis B and C Public Policy Association,
31st Department of Psychiatry, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens,
4Department of Social and Educational Policy, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Peloponnese, Corinth,
5Center for Health Services Research, Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology & Medical Statistics, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Opioid dependence is a chronic, relapsing health condition with complex sociological and individual determinants that should be managed systematically. Opioid dependence is becoming increasingly prevalent across the world and Europe in particular, with significant economic, personal and public health consequences. In 2012, approximately 38.6 million people in the world were opioid dependent. Of them, only 4.5 million (11.7% of total) were receiving treatment and care to help manage their dependence and minimize personal and public health harm. Opioid dependence is associated with an increased risk of mortality, primarily due to overdose, violence, suicide, and smoking and alcohol related causes. Intravenous Drug Use (IDU) has been strongly associated with an increase in the incidence and prevalence of communicable diseases (primarily HIV/AIDS and HCV) and related deaths. Opioid dependence does not only affect personal and public health, personal and family income, but also poses a substantial economic burden on the health care sys tem to manage and treat both dependence and its comorbidities, increases costs related to criminality and results in rises in welfare support. In the USA, people who misuse opioids (prescribed and illicit) are found to be causing an 8.7 times higher direct health care cost than those who do not. In Europe, total drug-related public expenditure was estimated at €34 billion in 2005, equivalent to 0.3% of total GDP, with opioid dependence accounting for 55% of treatment demand. At the national level, these estimates could be higher.

Key words: Burden of opioid dependence, Opioid dependence, Social and economic cost.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine