Opioid epidemic shows no signs of slowing down
Thursday, March 15, 2018
The opioid epidemic is one that continues to ravage the United States, and with a recent report it is unclear as to when this crisis will be curtailed. It's shaping up to be one of the deadliest drug epidemics in American history, with overdoses now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.
In 2016, opioid overdoses contributed to 64,000 deaths, which was more than firearms or car accidents that year. Even though the crisis was declared a public health emergency by President Donald Trump in 2017, the number of overdoses still increased by 30 percent in the last year, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some of the most notable efforts that have been employed to address this crisis include the cutting the production of opioids and limiting the number of opioid prescriptions. The development of prescription opioids has also come under the purview of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has promoted the development of abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids among pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Additionally, all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs that are focused on stopping inappropriate prescribing habits and identifying patients who doctor-shop. With all of these efforts in place, it is surprising to witness the increase in overdoses that were reported in hospital emergency rooms between the third quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017. The largest increase was observed in the Midwest, with Wisconsin experiencing a 109 percent increase.
While it is unclear as to why there is great variability in overdose numbers across the nation, one notable factor is the presence of highly potent opioids, such as fentanyl. In 2015, the majority of opioid overdoses were from heroin that were laced with fentanyl, not prescription medications as was seen during the early years of the epidemic.
The opioids that are currently flooding the country are more potent and dangerous, and with increasing ease of access this can make for a deadly combination. It is important for the next steps to be focused on curtailing the supply of these more dangerous drugs across the U.S. and the development of more active responses to the opioid epidemic.
"The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing," said Dr. Andrew Kolody, co-director of opioid policy at Brandeis Universty.
In an effort to address this growing issue, funding must be provided to treat those Americans who struggle with opioid addiction on a daily basis.
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