Drug Overdoses are a Leading Cause of Death in the US
Opioid addiction and accidental overdoses are now taking a huge toll. According to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 anni.
In Y 2015, more than 52,000 Americans died from some form of drug overdose; 33,000 of them involved some form of opioid.
Preliminary data for 2016 reveals that death toll is anywhere from 59,000 to 65,000.
That is a 19% increase in just 1 year, and the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths in US history.
Between Y’s 2014 and 2015, drug overdose deaths rose by 11%, the most common drugs involved in Rx opioid overdose deaths include: methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®).
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are also being abused by a rising number of people.
A recent article in the NY-T’s highlights the tragedy of Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth, two 13-year-olds who died after taking the synthetic opioid U-47700, also known as “pinky.” They got the drug from a teenage friend who had bought it on the dark web using Bitcoins.
The potency of synthetic opioids make them ideal for mailing.
A standard envelope can hold enough fentanyl to get 50,000 people high. And, while the dark web marketplace Silk Road was shut down in Y 2013, others have risen up in its place, allowing people who might otherwise not have access to narcotics get them through the mail.
Disturbingly, rising fentanyl addiction also poses novel risks to 1st responders, law enforcement and even drug-sniffing dogs. The drug is so potent (anywhere from 500 to 1,000% more potent than morphine) that inhaling just a few flakes can be lethal.
In Ohio, a police officer nearly died from exposure to a fentanyl-related compound.
During a routine traffic stop, he noticed a bag of white powder in the car. He used gloves and a mask for protection at the scene, but did not notice he had gotten some on his shirt. Later, when a colleague pointed out the powder on his uniform, he brushed it off with his bare hand.
And 1 hour later, he collapsed and had to be treated with 4 doses of naloxone. He was lucky and survived the ordeal. Many fentanyl users are not. Deadly overdoses involving fentanyl rose by 50% between Y’s 2013 and 2014, and another 72% between Y’s 2014 and 2015.
To truly understand the enormity of America’s drug problem, consider the following:
Drug overdoses are the 9th leading cause of death in the US.
In Y 2015, 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses; 33,091 of them involved an opioid and nearly 33% of them, 15,281, of them were by prescription.
Opioid use has overtaken smoking tobacco
More Americans now use Rx (prescription) opioids than smoke cigarettes, 1 in 4 Americans, and 1 in 3 millennials reports knowing someone addicted to opioids.
Opioids kill more Americans than car crashes
In Y 2014, Rx drug overdoses, a majority of which involved some type of opioid, killed more Americans than car crashes (49,714 compared to 32,675). This held true for Y 2015 as well, despite Y 2015 being hailed as the deadliest driving year since Y 2008. In all, 38,300 Americans died in car crashes in 2015.
Drugged driving causes more fatal crashes than drunk driving
Driving under the influence of opioids and other drugs has become a serious problem in the US, now causing more fatal car crashes than drunk driving. Rx and/or illegal drugs were involved in 43% of fatal car crashes in Y 2015, while 37% involved illegal amounts of alcohol.
Opioids, specifically, can increase the risk of being involved in a car crash by a factor of 10X, having a relative car crash risk between 2 and 10. A driver with no drugs or alcohol in their system has a relative crash risk of 1.
Americans use 80% of global opioid supply
Prescriptions for opioid painkillers rose by 300% between Y’s 2000 and 2009,28,29 and Americans now use 80% of all the opioids sold worldwide.
In Alabama, which has the highest opioid prescription rate in the US, 143 prescriptions are written for every 100 people.
Financial cost of opioid addiction tops $193-B annually
Prenatal exposure is rampant
Despite carrying risks of pregnancy-related problems and birth defects, nearly 33% of American women of childbearing age are prescribed opioid painkillers, and more than 14% of pregnant women were prescribed opioids during their pregnancy.
Addiction affects more than 1 in 4 opioid users
Studies show addiction affects about 26% of those using opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, and 1 in 550 patients on opioid therapy die from opioid-related causes within 2.5 years of their 1st prescription.
Opioid addiction has lowered life expectancy in US
According to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for both men and women dropped between Y’s 2014 and 2015, for the 1st time in 20 years, and overdose deaths appear to be a significant contributor.
Prescription painkillers are the #1 gateway to Heroin
OxyContin and other opioid pain killers have been identified as the primary gateway drugs to heroin. Chemically, these drugs are very similar and provide a similar kind of high. According to a Y 2013 US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report, nearly 80% of people who use heroin have previously used prescription painkillers.
Opioid use and addiction found to have lifelong health ramifications
According to Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief for psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, opioids cause changes in your brain that can increase your risk of depression, and the effects may be “long-lasting or even permanent.”
Opiates depress your central nervous system and slow the electrical activity in your brain, which can result in circadian rhythm disruptions, mood changes and cognitive decline.
Opiate use also promotes bowel dysfunction, endocrine system (hormonal) problems, sexual dysfunction, reduced fertility, reduced testosterone levels in men and bone disorders.
So, with all the health risks associated with opioid painkillers, experts recommend to exhaust other options before resorting to these dangerous drugs.
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