The Centers for Disease Control has released a new report on the prevalence of drug overdoses in America, finding, among other things, that the rate of deaths from accidental opioid overdose continues to climb across the country.
The statistics aren’t good
The report – published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – examines the rate of drug overdoses across the United States from 1999 to 2015.
The findings were stark: Overdoses were found to be responsible for over 52,000 deaths last year alone.
Geographically, the states that measured the greatest increases in deaths from synthetic opioids other than methadone – including fentanyl, the powerful painkiller found to have killed the pop singer Prince – tended to be most prevalent in the northeast and midwest.
New York state was found to have the greatest spike in death rates from 2014 to 2015, measuring a staggering 135.7 percent increase.
Eleven states were also found to have increased their rates of death stemming from heroin overdoses. The states with the highest percentage increases in their overdoses tended to be in the South. The state measuring the greatest percentage increase was South Carolina, with a 57.1 percent increase in heroin deaths.
Opioid overdose is on the rise
The numbers in regards to prescription and illicit opioid use were particularly stark. Over 33,000 Americans were found to have died from opioid use in the 16 years measured in the report. This accounted for 63 percent of all overdose deaths.
The use of natural opiates – such as oxycodone and hydrocodone – were also found to be prevalent in a prominent number of deaths last year. They accounted for over 12,700 deaths last year alone. The rate of increase in deaths in this category, however, has not been as speedy as that of other areas.
According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a CDC press release that the degree to which opioid use has become a public health concern is reaching crisis levels.
Too many Americans are feeling the devastation of the opioid crisis either from misuse of prescription opioids or use of illicit opioids.
Frieden identified several actions – which could be undertaken in concert by government officials, medical professionals, and law enforcement – that could contribute to lowering the level of opioid abuse.
Urgent action is needed to help health care providers treat pain safely and treat opioid use disorder effectively, support law enforcement strategies to reduce the availability of illicit opiates, and support states to develop and implement programs that can save lives.
The misuse of illicit opioids – such as heroin and fentanyl – have played a particular role in the rise in opioid overdose deaths, according to the CDC’s report.
Deaths from heroin overdoses, for example, were found to have increased by over 20 percent. Synthetic opioids other than methadone increased by a whopping 72.2 percent.
The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora D. Volkow, M.D., called for new approaches to dealing with the opioid epidemic.
Science-based solutions to reduce illicit opioid use and improve both health and life outcomes for opioid use disorder need to be implemented so we can start breaking down the barriers preventing effective treatment from reaching the millions of Americans who could benefit.