“The drug epidemic” elicits some eye-rolls and absent dismissals, whether this stems from a lack of knowledge, or abnegation of the truth, there’s no doubt in 2014, on average, 125 Americans died from overdoses by the stroke of midnight- only to continue the cycle the following day. The New York Times asserts the rates of fatal overdoses mirror the peak of H.I.V deaths. Whatsmore, overdoses were most common in bustling cities, yet now they are heavily concentrated, and sometimes outpacing, deaths in rural America.
More than 61 percent of fatal overdoses stemmed from opiate derived substances. 47,055 Americans perished from fatal overdoses in 2014, but what does 2016 have in store for us?
Should the trend continue in the same manner from 2003 (nine deaths per 100,000) to 2014 (15 deaths per 100,000), we may experience 28 deaths per 100,000 in 2016. We may yet surpass the peak of HIV deaths of the early 1990s.
Business Insider reports heroin use has grown by 300,000, resulting in a majority of overdoses across the nation. The transition from abusing prescribed opiate analgesics to heroin seems inevitable across the nation. Countless turn to heroin as an inexpensive alternative for buying prescription drugs on the black market, which can be as high as $20 per milligram.
CDC Says: Heroin use derived from a prescription pill habit is 40 times more inevitable.
If overdose is an inevitable tragedy in the absence of treatment, we must also account for the untold injuries caused to those caught in the crossfire of addiction and substance abuse. Heroin was second only to alcohol in 2011 for causing harm “both to the user and others in society,” according to The Economist in our neighboring U.K..
What we cannot dismiss is the enduring presence of overdose from non analgesic prescription medications. Indiana’s statistics in 2013 are a grim note for the rest of the country:
- 45 Deaths from Cocaine
- 74 Deaths from Benedictines
- 703 Deaths from “Unspecified Drugs”
- Total of 1,049 Overdoses from Prescription Meds, Opiate Based Substances, and Everything in Between
The silent epidemic is not limited to adults, adolescents are equally ensnared in substance abuse and overdose deaths. the American Society of Addiction Medicine states in 2014 467,000 minors from 12-17 abused analgesics; 28,000 used heroin, of which 18,000 precipitated a chronic heroin use disorder.
Of note, whites are suffering increased deaths rates from addictive substances, as compared to the African American community, which once dominated overdose deaths. The rift appears to stem from racial tensions concerning healthcare; prescribing physicians are more apt to grant opiate based substances to whites, in fear African Americans will abuse and sell the prescriptions. The statistics show us those notions are incorrect.
As quoted by The Washington Post,
Blacks are far more likely to be arrested for selling or possessing drugs than whites, even though whites use drugs at the same rate. And whites are actually more likely to sell drugs. . . whites were about 45 percent more likely than blacks to sell drugs,”
Whatever the case may be, overdose deaths continue to climb from year to year, and without an appropriate means of action to combat the drug scourge, 2016 will suffer ever increasing rates of fatalities.