If you thought America may have turned a corner in overcoming the opioid epidemic, you are unfortunately mistaken. Sadly, we’re just nine months into 2018 and there is already a very good chance that the number of painkiller-related overdoses will outnumber the totals of 2017. And on that note, last year’s tallies were the worst the country has seen so far; with 72,000 people lost to the crisis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shared the 2017 totals, which translated to roughly 200 overdose deaths per day. They also are substantially higher than the CDC’s 2016 OD count, which came out to around 64,000. And those fatalities have “officially” made drug abuse one of America’s primary sources of premature death. In fact, the opioid overdose totals now surpass lives taken by guns, car accidents and HIV/AIDS.
If there is one culprit behind the sharp increase of opioid-related fatalities it has to be fentanyl. The “street version” of the drug (which we’ve covered many times before) has now been commonly laced with dangerous chemicals, greatly increasing overdose risks. 2018 has seen a significant amount of deaths related to this synthetic narcotic and reports from The New York Times claim that fentanyl use is spreading all over the U.S.
“There is some early evidence that drug distributors are finding ways to mix fentanyl with black tar heroin, which could increase death rates in the West,” New York Times reporter Margot Sanger-Katz explained in a recent article. “If that becomes more widespread, the overdose rates in the West could explode as they have in parts of the East.”
TheFix.com also covered this story and recommended some solutions to potentially slow down the epidemic. Using international examples, they are pushing for more accessible treatment options. France, for instance, has allowed buprenorphine prescriptions to go out regularly to its citizens (something that is roadblocked here) and in that country, there has been a 79 percent decrease in opioid deaths over the past four years.
Other potential solutions include allowing for more clean needle exchanges (dirty needles have been listed as a contributor to fentanyl overdoses) and making the OD reversal drug naloxone more available to first responders. It would also be nice for these issues to be brought to a national forum. Though President Trump has made several remarks about the crisis, his administration has yet to take major action against it.
We certainly want to be an available resource for anyone who is struggling. If you or someone you love is in the grips of an opioid addiction, please reach out for help before it’s too late.