Opioid Overdose Deaths Exceed 50,000

opioid overdose deaths

After the Super Bowl, which featured public service announcements (PSA) about the dangers of opioid narcotics, many Americans were likely alarmed about the information relayed. Some may not have believed figures like, teenagers are more likely to lose their life from a drug overdose than a bullet or texting while driving. The hope was to educate parents who place greater emphasis on locking guns up and admonishing their kids about texting and driving, than they do worrying about prescription narcotics being safely stored. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) PSA’s running during the Super Bowl which has such a large audience, is indicative of just how important it is that the entire nation does their part in ending the opioid epidemic.

Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing that one in four drug overdoses was related to heroin in 2015, CNN reports. A percentage that is exponentially greater than it was in1999, when only 6 percent of all overdoses involved heroin. The findings come from a new study, Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2015.

Opioid overdose deaths have been on the rise for a number of years. However, heroin use is now occurring more and more as result of prescription opioid users making the switch to heroin, as an easier to acquire, more potent and less expensive alternative. Prescription opioid (i.e. oxycodone) overdose deaths accounted for 29 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2010, according to the article. In 2015, it was good sign that just 24 percent of all overdose deaths involved prescription opioids, a sign that certain government efforts have paid off.

Unfortunately, as prescription opioid overdose deaths have been on the decline, deaths involving heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl have been on the rise. The study showed that fentanyl-type drugs were involved in just 8 percent of all overdose deaths in 2010, compared 18 percent of all overdose deaths in 2015. Fentanyl is often 50 percent more potent than heroin and 80 times stronger than morphine.

“Starting in 2011, overdoses involving heroin has really skyrocketed. There’s a really good chance the increase involving heroin has to be involved with fentanyl,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Brandeis University’s Opioid Policy Research Center. 

Many are hopeful that fentanyl-related deaths will decrease as a result of Chinese government efforts to ban the production of fentanyl analogs. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency(DEA) has been working closely with Chinese officials to make it harder to get the deadly narcotic.

Regarding the Super Bowl PSA, the new study showed that the of overdose deaths number reached 52,404 in 2015, compared to 36,252 firearm-related deaths in the same year. It was the first year that overdose deaths exceeded 50,000. While the report had some promising findings with regard to prescription opioids, there is still a lot more work to do regarding synthetic opioids and heroin.

If you or a loved one has become dependent on opioids of any kind, please contact Cottonwood Tucson. We can provide both medical detoxification and residential treatment, giving one the tools for working a program of addiction recovery.

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