Posted on September 5, 2017 by Laura Fuller
The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that drug overdoses killed 64,070 people in the United States last year. This constitutes a rise of 21% over the 52,898 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2015. These statistics, now posted on the CDC’s website, are the latest available on the crippling opioid crisis.
The CDC estimates that more than half the overdose deaths in 2016 involved fentanyl, compared with 40 percent last year, and 20 percent in 2014. In 2015, roughly 9,500 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone. The organization linked Fentanyl to 20,145 deaths in 2016 alongside other synthetic opioids.
Synthetic opioid drugs such as fentanyl are 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Pharmaceutical companies originally designed these drugs for pain management during surgery or in end-of-life settings. Fentanyl is often manufactured illegally and sold through illegal drug markets for their heroin-like effect. When taken accidentally or misused, they can depress normal functions such as breathing and heart rate, resulting in death.
The CDC warns that multiple doses of naloxone may be required to revive a patient who has taken fentanyl. This is critically important for first responders as they grapple with the swelling rise of overdoses nationwide. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the CDC released a nationwide alert and a public health advisory about large increases in fentanyl drug reports in 2015. This report highlighted deaths across multiple states in the Northeast, Midwest, and South. Recent national figures show striking regional differences in the rate of increase in overdose deaths related to fentanyl. Jurisdictions in Maryland, New York City, and Virginia recording significant increases. As a result, the CDC encouraged states to expand access to naloxone and training for administering naloxone to reduce opioid overdose deaths.
This includes the need for education on opioid overdose and demonstrates the importance of linking those with substance use disorders to treatment. The CDC also noted that “changes in the supply and potency of illicit drug products can substantially contribute to increases in overdose deaths regardless of rates of opioid misuse.” It is clear that while these drugs will continue to increase the likelihood of overdose-related deaths, eliminating these synthetic opioids will not solve the nationwide addiction epidemic. The CDC estimates that only one in five people who currently need treatment for addiction receive adequate services. This public health issue continues to underscore the need for quality care capable of meeting the needs of those afflicted.