The average American is more likely to die from an opioid overdose than a vehicle crash. It’s the first time in our nation’s history that opioid overdoses have overtaken crashes as a leading cause of preventable death. The odds of dying from an opioid overdose are one in 96, greater than not only crashes (one in 103), but also falls (one in 114) and gun assaults (one in 285).
More than 133 people die every day because of opioid overdoses. These statistics highlight how devastating the opioid epidemic has become in the U.S., and it’s a sign of how great our challenges are if we want to address the problem.
A Closer Look at Opioid Death Rates in the U.S.
Opioid death rates offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paint a grim picture. Preliminary data from the CDC suggested that approximately 68,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2018. More than 47,000 of those involved opioids.
It’s possible that the opioid death rate could be far worse than these numbers suggest. In February 2018, a study published in the journal Addiction looked at reported opioid deaths and found that the actual rates are up to 35 percent higher than the ones reported by the CDC. Researchers said the speciﬁc drugs leading to a person’s death are frequently not identiﬁed on death certiﬁcates, which means that the actual death toll is even more alarming than we realize.
Why We Should Still Be Concerned About the Epidemic
If you’ve been tracking the annual number of drug overdoses, you’ll notice that there was a slight decrease in drug-related deaths in 2018 compared to the previous year. However, it’s far too early to be optimistic about the trajectory of the opioid epidemic. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of opioid overdoses seemed to level off, suggesting that the worst of the epidemic had passed. Yet, drug-related deaths were nowhere near what we’re experiencing now.
Another major concern is the increased availability of fentanyl on the black market. Fentanyl now causes more overdose deaths than any other opioid. In 2018, nearly 32,000 overdose deaths involved fentanyl or other similar synthetic opioids. In contrast to the overall number of drug overdose deaths, fentanyl and synthetic opioid-related deaths are on the rise.
People Continue to Suffer from Opioid Use
An estimated 1.7 million people in the United States experienced substance use disorders related to prescription opioids in 2017. More than 650,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder. There’s some overlap in those two statistics. Prescription opioid use often precedes heroin use; eight out of 10 heroin users first used prescription opioids.
The U.S. opioid epidemic is about more than just substance use. Neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition in which a newborn experiences drug withdrawal syndrome, has increased dramatically alongside opioid addiction. Infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C have also spread because of illicit opioid use. The epidemic has propelled an increase in the number of infection-related strokes. Opioid addiction also impacts families, communities and workforces in ways that simply can’t be expressed in statistics.
The fact that life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased in recent years symbolizes the ways in which opioid overdoses have affected all of us. Deaths of despair have increased dramatically since the turn of the century, and we are all paying the price. The economic burden of prescription opioid misuse is approximately $78.5 billion a year. Those costs include healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement. As staggering as that figure is, it fails to show how deeply each addiction impacts the lives of sufferers and their loved ones.
Opioid Overdoses are Preventable
It’s essential we remember that these deaths are preventable, not inevitable. Many of the efforts to fight the opioid epidemic center on stopping the first-time use of opioids. But people suffering from an ongoing opioid addiction need to know that help is available. Less than 10 percent of people who need opioid dependence treatment receive it, so increasing access to help and raising awareness among users is critical.
At BRC Recovery, we focus on helping those currently struggling with an opioid use disorder. No one wants to become a statistic, nor do we want our loved ones to be casualties in the opioid epidemic. Our team works with chronic relapsers and people who believe they are treatment resistant. We know that recovery is possible for anyone who truly wants it.
If you or a loved one needs help, call BRC Recovery today at 1-866-461-1759 to learn more about our programs.