Drug overdose has emerged as the foremost cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. According to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times (NYT), more than 62,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, a significant increase of 19 percent compared to the figure of 52,404 recorded in 2015. The data was compiled from hundreds of county coroners, medical examiners and health departments in all 50 states, in addition to the District of Columbia.
While the NYT could not specify how many of those deaths were caused by opioids, basis last year’s trends and reports, most of the deaths were likely caused by opioids, including fentanyl. The initial data points to a large number of deaths in states that include Florida, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. However, the increase in mortalities was not equally distributed across the nation with some Western states reporting a decline in drug overdose deaths. According to the NYT, the decrease could be attributed to a lower distribution of deadlier drugs, especially fentanyl or its analogs like carfentanil.
As per the preliminary data, 59,000 to 65,000 people died due to a drug overdose in 2016 and the problem will continue to worsen in 2017. The official data will be available only by December 2017 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), finishes verifying reports from across the states, the NYT reported.
Meanwhile, at a joint news conference with Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials on June 6, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, “Drug abuse is crippling families and communities throughout our country. We are not talking about a slight increase. There is a horrifying surge in drug overdoses.” According to Rosenstein, the opioid epidemic is being dealt as an “all-hands-on-deck” problem by the Justice Department and the situation has warranted that the agency uses all the tools available to them for prevention, treatment and prosecution.
US in the grip of opioid epidemic
While illegal drugs proliferating the U.S. market are often blamed for the current opioid epidemic, the problem can be traced back to legal drugs. In the 1990s, chronic pain cases were treated as a serious medical issue. Taking advantage of the situation, big pharmaceutical companies got the doctors and other medical practitioners to prescribe medicines like Percocet and OxyContin in large numbers.
As opioids became more accessible to people, deaths due to opioid overdose went up. In 2015, the nation reported more than 33,000 opioid overdose deaths. Although states have taken the necessary steps to stop unnecessary prescription of opioids, including threatening medical practitioners with dire consequences, more and more people are falling prey to such drugs. Those who could not find access to painkillers turned to cheaper, synthetic and more potent opioids such as fentanyl and heroin. In addition to threatening the lives of those who consumed them, these potent drugs even posed a risk to police officers and other emergency responders trying to help drug overdose victims.
Road to recovery
It is time that people came together to fight the raging epidemic that is sweeping across the nation and has claimed millions of American lives. In addition to preventive measures taken by law enforcement agencies, more efforts are required to encourage people to seek treatment and help make necessary care available and easily accessible. Notably, opioid addiction can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is grappling with opioid abuse, he/she should immediately seek professional help from a reputed mental health care provider.
At Sovereign Health, we understand that addiction to opioids can be hard to break. Due to the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, it is often recommended to seek treatment at certified addiction rehab centers. For those looking for treatment options for addiction to drugs, please call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-683-9756 or chat online for expert advice about one of the best addiction treatment centers in your vicinity.