OD Deaths Increase 21.5%
FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2018
An average of 174 Americans per day — about one every eight minutes and 20 seconds — lost their lives due to drug overdoses in 2016. The death toll for the year was staggering: 63,632 men and women… children and adults… gone.
The country’s OD epidemic is only getting worse, according to a report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Thursday. From 2015 to 2016, overdose deaths increased 21.5%. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths in 2016, the CDC stated, “involved a prescription or illicit opioid.”
Fentanyl A Deadly Driving Force
The CDC cited synthetic opioids, especially illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), as the driving force behind the increase in overdose deaths: “IMF is mixed into counterfeit opioid and benzodiazepine pills, heroin and cocaine, likely contributing to increases in overdoses involving these other substances.”
Fentanyl is 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin. It can slow a person’s breathing to a complete stop. (See “Fentanyl Fueling Crisis”)
No region or ethnic group is being spared. The OD crisis has impacted the entire nation, across all geographical boundaries and demographic categories.
“No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC Principal Deputy Director. “We all know a friend, family member or loved one devasted by opioids.”
30% Jump In Opioid Overdoses
A further indication of the worsening epidemic is the increase in emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses. Tracking ER statistics over a 15-month period (July 2016 – September 2017), the CDC observed a 30% jump nationwide in opioid overdoses.
The CDC’s report released Thursday was based on 2015-16 data collected from 31 states and the District of Columbia. In breaking down the numbers, the CDC noted these increases from 2015 to 2016:
- The overdose death rate from synthetic opioids, other than methadone, more than doubled.
- Deaths due to overdoses of prescription opioids increased 10.6%.
- Heroin-related overdose death rates rose 19.6%, and cocaine-related overdose death rates soared 52.4%.
The increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths can likely be traced back to opioids. Cocaine is now frequently being laced with fentanyl, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. National Public Radio reported on this widespread practice among drug dealers Thursday:
The DEA's latest National Drug Threat Assessment says adding fentanyl to cocaine is typically for the purpose of "speedballing," which combines the rush of a stimulant, often cocaine, with a drug that depresses the nervous system, such as heroin. It's a dangerous combination in any form — more so with fentanyl.
Some experts initially believed fentanyl being found in cocaine was the result of cross-contamination, as drug dealers carelessly packaged the two different “products” in close proximity to one another. But a growing number of law enforcement agents and doctors — as well as drug users themselves — now suspect fentanyl is being maliciously added to cocaine. It expands the market for cocaine to opioid addicts and makes cocaine even more addictive.
A Boston man suffering from addiction told NPR, “People who were just using cocaine occasionally… now they’re using cocaine every day.”