In a much-needed relief from the usual undesirable news associated with the opioid epidemic, it has been reported that deaths due to drug overdoses, especially opioids, have stopped increasing for the first time in the last 30 years. In fact, the preliminary data shows a 5 percent decline in the overall rate of overdose deaths in 2018.
Deaths due to drug overdoses have been on the rise since 1990. More than 70,000 overdose deaths were recorded in 2017 alone, out of which around 68 percent involved an opioid or a prescription drug.
According to the initial statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 67,744 reported deaths due to drug overdose in 2018.Though the numbers might go up after all the toxicology reports have been compiled, it is not expected to go beyond 69,000 compared to an all-time high of more than 70,000 deaths reported in 2017.
What worked in favor of reducing the rates?
The federal government has been struggling with the opioid epidemic for the past three decades. A number of policies and strategies were introduced and then withdrawn, either due to lack of funds or viability issues, with the view to combat the menace. However, recently the government emphasized on multiple new ways to fight the epidemic. These included:
- Expansion of treatment programs
- Tougher policing laws and regulations
- Introduction of policies to reduce opioid prescriptions
- Conducting awareness programs among users about the addictive nature of opioids
- Improved access to naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, through wider distribution of the same
Although it is tough to single out a policy that might have contributed to the decrease, a combination of all may have done the trick. Speaking about the efficacy of the policies, Rebecca Haffajee, a behavioral health professor at the University of Michigan said that as an evaluator, it was hard to separate the policies and determine which was working. Haffajee studies the impact of the various drug policies introduced.
Further, the overall drug-related deaths due to overdose from prescription painkillers, like Vicodin and Oxycodone, has come down to 12,757 in 2018 from 14,926 in 2017; overdose deaths related to four other drug categories, including cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine, have soared higher.
Although the decline in overdose deaths was a much-needed boost, the overdose death rate is still around seven times higher than what is was three decades ago.
According to official data, the following have been identified as the top five deadliest drugs in the U.S.:
- Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid originally developed to treat excruciating pain arising from cancer. Considered to be nearly 100 times stronger than morphine, it provides instant relief from pain. Drug peddlers often mix fentanyl with other drugs like heroin and cocaine to increase its potency and their profit margins. Most people who die of a fentanyl overdose are unaware that they are using fentanyl.
- Heroin: It is one of the deadliest opioid and until recently the most common cause of deaths related to drug overdoses. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 494,000 Americans, aged 12 years and above, were current users of heroin. Heroin can be sniffed, snorted, smoked, or injected.
- Cocaine: Extracted from the Erythroxylum cocoa plant, cocaine may be snorted, injected, or smoked. Cocaine abuse leads to hallucinations, increased mental alertness, hypersensitivity, restlessness, increased palpitations, and diaphoresis. It has always been amongst the top three deadliest drugs in the U.S. since the past decade or so.
- Methamphetamine: Meth, as it is popularly known, is also one of the leading causes of overdose deaths in America with the number of cases increasing by nearly four times from 2011 to 2017. It is a highly powerful and addictive stimulant which directly affects the central nervous system.
- Alprazolam: Xanas, as it is popularly known as, is another prescription drug that has claimed a lot of victims in the opioid epidemic is alprazolam, a drug belonging to the benzodiazepine family. Alprazolam is primarily used to treat panic attacks and anxiety. The high misuse of this drug can be attributed to its ability to easily mix with other drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.
Seeking treatment for opioid addiction
Opioid use disorder (OUD) is an overwhelming condition that has severe short- and long-term effects. According to the 2017 NSDUH report, around 2.1 million people above the age of 12 years have an OUD. Fortunately, an OUD is treatable with a comprehensive treatment program comprising of a detox, behavioral counseling, alternative therapies, and recovery management. A detox program is the first step in any addiction treatment program and helps in cleansing the body of the unwanted substances accumulated with prolonged use of the drug.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to opioids and is looking for a detox treatment center, get in touch with the Invictus Health Group. Our experts can help you choose the best detox treatment program suited to your requirements with just a few simple questions. For more information about our network detox treatment rehabs, call our 24/7 helpline 866-548-0190 and speak with a member of our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.