The Opioid Epidemic: By The Numbers

PR Newswire PR Newswire • September 8, 2019

Alarming Statistics

Although there is no definitive data for 2019, the numbers from prior years paint a gruesome picture. They also help us to better understand where we’re at with the opioid epidemic, and what’s propelling it.

• In 2017, health care providers across the nation wrote approximately 191 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers, 45% of which came from primary care providers.

• 7 million of the 2.1 million individuals with an opioid abuse disorder use prescription pain medications as their drug of choice.

• A reported 6% of individuals claim to misuse prescription opioids because of pain. While 53.1% got their drugs from a friend or family member, 36% received a prescription from a health care provider.

• In 2017, prescription opioids accounted for more than 35% of all opioid-related deaths.

• Every day, emergency departments treat more than 1,000 individuals for prescription opioid misuse, adding to the total economic burden of the crisis, which averages approximately $78.5 billion each year.

• Overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increased from more than 29,000 in 2017 to nearly 32,000 in 2018.

• In 2017, nearly a third of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were due to fentanyl.

• Between 2014 and 2017, the rate of increase in overdose deaths (17%) in urban areas was more than double that seen in rural counties (9%), reversing the trend seen in the previous eight years.

• The number of overdose deaths today is far more than deaths linked to cars, guns or even HIV/AIDs at its peak.

Concerning Opioid Epidemic Trends

Although the CDC anticipates the number of opioid-related deaths to continue to drop, experts warn that there are a few reasons to be cautious about the findings. This concern comes in the wake of the identification of a few alarming trends:

1. This is not the first time the death rate from opioids has leveled off. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of opioid-related deaths appeared to taper off at around 41,500. However, they began to increase again in 2013, and in 2017, they skyrocketed to 70,000, which experts believe is due to the introduction of fentanyl.

2. Though opioid-related fatalities seem to be on the decline, deaths from synthetic opioids are on the rise. Fentanyl is an extremely potent and unpredictable drug that is overwhelming impacting the Midwest and Northeast at present. According to U.S. News, fentanyl has been the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths in the past few years, and the problem only seems to be getting worse. Data collected from January to June of 2018 suggests the upsurge in fentanyl-related fatalities nearly eradicated any progress on the opioid-related front. What’s more alarming is that fentanyl, though a synthetic opioid, doesn’t just affect opioid users but has infiltrated other drug markets, including cocaine and methamphetamine.

3. Data is always subject to change. The numbers in 2017 were off by roughly 2,000 deaths. If overdose deaths were undercounted in 2018, then 2018 may have actually been worse, not better, than 2017. It’s important to always include a margin of error since doing so will help maintain the urgency of the crisis.

4. In the past, the rate of opioid overdose deaths was highest in rural areas, but that trend began to reverse itself in 2014. Today, overdose mortality rates are higher in urban areas across all age groups.

5. The rate of opioid-related deaths has been doubling every three years in eight states since 1999. The District of Columbia has seen the fastest rate of increase, more than tripling every year since 2013.

Though the CDC anticipates a slight drop in opioid-related overdoses in 2019, additional data and trends suggest that matters may continue to get worse before they get better. In the meantime, it’s imperative that both those touched and untouched by the opioid epidemic join in the fight through awareness and education. Learn more about how you can help at JanOne.

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