With so many overdoses and so many headlines, the question often becomes: When will we turn a corner with America’s opioid crisis? In truth, this epidemic has been gaining momentum for almost a decade. But there are certain indicators that point to a new direction. Interestingly enough, it was the business page Yahoo Finance that touched upon what this upcoming shift may be. And sadly, it is not encouraging news.
According to experts interviewed for the site, this crisis may turn from a prescription-based epidemic to a “street-based” epidemic. At this stage of the game, the synthetic drug fentanyl is becoming one of the primary culprits and it’s not reaching people via pharmacies. Now, those addicted are getting their supplies from everyday narcotics dealers.
Narcan inventor Dr. Roger Crystal was one of the prominent voices adding credibility to this shift. Speaking with Yahoo Finance, he discussed many of the latest overdose stats; which paint a clear picture about the current status of this crisis.
“We are now in the next phase of this opioid crisis, where the majority of deaths arise from fentanyl,” Dr. Crystal explained. “It’s the strongest of the opioids, 50 times stronger than heroin, it’s also easier and cheaper to make than heroin, and we see it growing year on year.”
The article followed Dr. Crystal’s interview with new data provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017, for example, 72,000 overdose deaths were attributed to the opioid crisis. What’s most noteworthy about that, is that 30,000 of those (nearly half) were caused by fentanyl. That was a tremendous increase over the prior year and one that has gotten many researchers’ attention.
The data also called out that 2.4 million people who are currently addicted to some type of opioid throughout the U.S. As those addictions shift to fentanyl, the risks for overdosing become much greater. And as we see a decline in prescription painkiller abuse (which the CDC stats also alluded to), it is assumed that this group is getting high from street-based synthetic opioids. An added risk to that, of course, is the unknown sources of these drugs and the possibility of them being laced with heavier, more addictive substances.
Yahoo Finance concluded their piece with some telling stats about this crisis’ economic impact as well. Because of job losses, incarcerations and a host of other expenses, it is now estimated that the opioid epidemic is costing the country $504 billion a year; six times higher than what was estimated back in 2015.