drug overdoses

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than 72,300 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. That figure is a preliminary estimate, as some deaths take longer to investigate. This means the actual number could be even higher.

The primary killer of Americans dying from drug overdoses is synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. As the New York Times noted, drug overdoses killed more people last year than the HIV virus, automobile accidents, or gun violence. Fentanyl was the same drug that killed beloved musician Prince in 2016. But even with the opioid crisis still raging throughout the U.S. with no end in sight, deaths from prescription painkillers, like Oxycodone, along with cocaine, heroin and methadone fell.

As the below map shows, overdose-related deaths went up in all but ten states last year, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. In some cases, it increased by as much as 20 percent or more in states like Indiana, Maine, New Jersey (which saw 27 percent more overdose-related deaths last year compared to 2016), and West Virginia:

drug overdoses
Map by the New York Times

According to the Times, many of the people who died due to opioid-based drug overdoses were white people in rural communities. However, because the addictive and highly lethal drug fentanyl has since spread to more urban heroin markets, many of those who overdosed were older black Americans.

One possible place where public officials can look to for solutions on how to slow the growing trend of opioid-based drug overdoses is Montgomery County, Ohio (which has been called the overdose capital of the nation). A record 349 people died from accidental overdoses in 2016, and the county subsequently broke that record just halfway through 2017. The Times reported that county officials are now taking proactive measures to reduce the number of people killed.

The county has reduced medical opioid prescribing; increased addiction treatment resources; expanded community access to an anti-overdose drug called naloxone; and provided addiction treatment to prisoners in its county jail, among other measures.

Barbara Marsh, the assistant to the Dayton and Montgomery County health commissioner, says she hopes the trend will hold, and provide some lessons for other parts of the state. “It’s definitely wait and see,” she said. “We want to continue seeing a decline.”

President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in May.. He also recently called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to initiate lawsuits against manufacturers of opioids, which he said are “really sending opioids at a level that it shouldn’t be happening.” As Grit Post reported in January, one pharmacy in a small West Virginia town of just 2,900 people received approximately 21 million opioid-based painkillers over a ten-year period — roughly 7,100 pills for each person.

Click this link to view the CDC’s preliminary findings.


Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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