Opioid Epidemic Deaths Reaching Concerning Levels, Devastating Communities Across The Country

A rise in opioid abuse since 2014 has coerced the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to label opioid use as an epidemic as it devastates communities across the country.

Dr. Tom Frieden, of the CDC, shared his concern about the increase in opioid related deaths, alongside the use of heroin. His concern is mirrored in the communities where unnecessary opioid related deaths occur on an all too regular basis.

“The epidemic of deaths involving opioids continues to worsen. Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems.”

According to CNN, synthetic opioids have resulted in approximately 9,580 fatalities in 2015. Many of the deaths were directly attributed to the use of fentanyl, resulting in at least 73 percent of the deaths. Prescription opioid related deaths resulted in about a four percent increase, or 17, 536 deaths. Heroin, in comparison, resulted in 12,990 deaths and saw a 23 percent increase.

The addictive nature of opioids has many in the scientific community concerned whether the possible benefits are worth the potential for addiction.

Michael Bitticelli, director of the National Drug Control Policy, states that the increase in addiction and death is most likely due to the lack of substance abuse treatment while the patient is supposed to be weaned off of the drugs.

“The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country — in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment,”

Opioid Epidemic Deaths Reaching Concerning Levels, Devastating Communities Across The Country

According to the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, provided by the DEA, drug poisoning resulted in nearly 5,000 more deaths than suicide, 32,000 more deaths than homicide, 14,000 more deaths than firearms, and 12,000 more deaths than motor vehicle crashes, in 2014.

The shocking statistics reveal that the debate over revoking the legality of firearms is removing the focus from the real issues, such as opioid use. Since abusing opioids is already illegal, the focus on preventing the abuse is a hot topic at this time.

According to the DEA report, the opioid threat deserves the attention it is receiving, however the other drug threats should not be downplayed as a result.

“While the current opioid crisis has deservedly garnered significant attention, the methamphetamine threat has remained prevalent; the cocaine threat was in a state of steady decline, but appears to be rebounding; and due in part to the national discussion surrounding legalization efforts, the focus of marijuana enforcement efforts continues to evolve.”

Opioid Epidemic Deaths Reaching Concerning Levels, Devastating Communities Across The Country

Within the DEA report, prescription drug use is expected to remain a significant threat within the United States for quite some time. Although legislations and law enforcement efforts have been successful in a decline of opioid related deaths in some areas, as well as the integration of prescription based systems that can be shared across the country to assist in monitoring the dispense of the drugs, there are other opioids that are not easily tracked. This leads to a significant concern that substances such as heroin and other alternatives could pose a much more devastating risk to potential users.

As such, heroin has seen an increase of production in an effort to keep opioids out for public consumption.

“Heroin poses a serious and increasing threat to the United States. The size of the U.S. heroin user population continues to grow aggressively and overdose deaths, already at high levels, continue to rise. Increases in poppy cultivation and heroin production in Mexico, the primary source of heroin for the U.S. market, allow traffickers to provide a steady stream of high-purity, low-cost heroin to markets throughout the United States”

Although the increase poses frightening numbers, there is help available. Family members and friends that suspect someone is abused to opioids should talk to the individual about the abuse and attempt to suggest treatment. If that is not successful, contacting the authorities might be beneficial to coerce treatment as well.

[Feature Image Via: Great Artist/Shutterstock]