According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin) since 2000.
According to new data published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, nearly half a million Americans died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2014 and they’re calling this an epidemic. Opioid overdose deaths (which include everything from heroin to opiate pain killers) hit record levels in 2014. In fact, there was an shocking 14% increase in just one year. Increases in prescription pain reliever and heroin deaths are the biggest driver of the drug overdose epidemic. Deaths from heroin increased in 2014 and, since 2010, heroin overdoses have tripled.
“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders. This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids.”
Interestingly, there is no one group affected by this epidemic. Drug overdose deaths are up in both men and women, in non-Hispanic whites and blacks, and in adults of nearly all ages. Drug addiction, as always, is a great equalizer.
Three Ways to Stop or Slow the Epidemic
Three main routes have been pointed out to prevent and reduce deaths by overdose:
- Pain killer prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999. It’s time to review how many prescriptions are written and to better monitor what education and information is being given to both prescribing doctors and their patients. Health care professionals need safer prescribing guidelines and more education so they can make more informed prescribing decisions.
- Expand drug and alcohol treatment options while also making drug and alcohol inpatient rehabs, outpatient and medications more accessible.
- Education on every level needs to improve. From schools, to public service announcements to prescribing doctors. Evidence-based information needs to be disseminated to the public in a way it can be understood and utilized.