Number of Opioid Deaths Continue to Mount
By Christopher A. Parrella, J.D., CHC, CPC, CPCO
CDC: Number of Opioid Deaths Continue to Mount
Every day an estimated 115 people die as a result of an opioid overdose. In 2016, opioids accounted for 42,249 deaths. That’s a 27.9 percent increase from 2015, according to a newly released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new analysis confirms that recent increases in drug overdose deaths are driven by continued sharp increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin, and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances.
Although the largest increases of opioid-involved deaths and deaths involving synthetic opioids occurred among males aged 25–44 years and persons aged 25–34 years, deaths involving synthetic opioids increased in every subgroup examined. Overall drug overdose death rates increased by 21.5 percent – from 16.3 to 19.8 per 100,000 – between 2015 and 2016; the rate increase for opioid-involved overdose deaths was 27.9 percent for the same period.
Geographically, New Hampshire (30.3 per 100,000), West Virginia (26.3 per 100,000) and Massachusetts (23.5 per 100,000) saw the highest death rates from synthetic opioids, while Washington D.C., (17.3 per 100,000), West Virginia (14.9 per 100,000), and Ohio (13.5 per 100,000) had the highest rates for heroin-related deaths. Washington, D.C. (13.5) and Ohio (10.1) also saw the highest cocaine-related overdose death rates, along with Rhode Island (10.7).
Other statistics gleaned from the CDC’s analysis of the National Vital Statistics System’s cause-of-death mortality files:
- Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 10.6 percent
- Heroin-related overdose deaths increased by 19.5 percent
- Psychostimulant-related overdose deaths increased by 33.3 percent
The CDC notes that the first wave of opioid overdose deaths began in the 1990s, with a second wave beginning in 2010 and a third in 2013. Still, the opioid epidemic continues to worsen.
The federal government has begun to amp up its enforcement efforts by going after those who buy and sell illegal opiates on the “dark web.” The FBI recently announced an enforcement action it dubbed “Operation Disarray” that took place in all 50 states simultaneously.
And, the National Institutes of Health recently announced a major new initiative in which the agency plans to spend $1.1 billion this fiscal year on researching treatments for pain and opioid addiction.
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