Drug overdoses have become a hot topic issue over the past year in this country. The spike in overdoses that was seen in 2014, totaling 47,055 deaths, was the catalyst for the discourse that is occurring now and it has led some people to describe the current phenomena of overdoses as a national epidemic.
Almost every state in the union has seen a dramatic increase in their overdose rates and as such, people at the highest level of government have taken notice. President Obama has spent time this past summer trying to raise awareness to the problem that we currently have in this country with opioid addiction and he met with rapper Macklemore, a former opioid addict, in May in order to record a public service announcement about the dangers of opioid abuse.
Overdose rates have gotten so out of control over the past few months that a sheriff’s department in South Florida went on record to say that during the summer of 2016 the area between Key West and West Palm was seeing an overdose every 2 hours. Many first responders described how their jobs had essentially become driving around and administering Narcan.
Part of the reason for this spike in overdose rates is because of the influx of Chinese fentanyl that has made its way onto American streets. The powerful narcotic is said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and since it is cheap, drug dealers across the nation have begun cutting their heroin with the product.
People who are not aware that the heroin they are buying is cut with something stronger than they are used to, are still ingesting the same amount of the drug, but due to the increase in strength, their body cannot handle it and many times this leads to a lethal overdose.
If fentanyl wasn’t enough there is also a new drug, even more powerful than fentanyl that has started to make its way onto American streets and that drug is Carfentanil. Carfentanil is an opioid whose only legal use is to tranquilize large animals like elephants. It is said to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and a dose the size of a grain of sand can kill a human being. One Ohio town this past summer found that their heroin was cut with Carfentanil and they saw 174 overdoses in just 6 days.
The number of overdoses are staggering and it is made worse by the fact that many opioid users will seek out drugs that cause overdoses because they want to get the best high. In the past, this line of thinking, while dangerous, made somewhat sense because it showed that the product was pure, but today doing so is tantamount to suicide because the overdoses are being caused by cutting heroin with deadly powerful drugs.
As shocking as all of this information is, looking at the numbers in regards to overdose rates in this country is even more frightening. The increases for 2015 have not yet been released, but if 2014 is any indication then the rate of increase is probably staggering and with the introduction of fentanyl this past year, the rates will probably continue to rise in the years to come.
|State||Percent Change from 2013-2014|
This chart above shows the rate of increase in overdose death from 2013 to 2104. There are 36 states in this country that saw an increase in overdose deaths during this time period and the fact that there were 22 states that showed a double-digit increase is horrifying.
During this same time period, there were only 3 states, California, Minnesota, and New York, which showed no change at all, and only 11 states and the District of Columbia, that showed a decrease.This chart above shows the rate of increase in overdose deaths from 2013 to 2104. There are 36 states in this country that saw an increase in overdose deaths during this time period and the fact that there were 22 states that showed a double-digit increase is horrifying.
|State||Percent Change from 2013-2014|
|District of Columbia||-5.3|
There is a call for more education, greater access to treatment, and greater community outreach if we are to try to actually begin to tackle the problem of drug overdoses that we have in this country. Fixing the problem will not be easy, as shown by the fact that drug addiction and alcoholism are almost as old as man himself, but given the technological advances and our greater understanding as to how alcoholism and addiction works, I believe that we can actually begin to make a dent in the problem.These numbers all point to a serious issue within the country and one that we cannot continue to ignore for much longer. As much as the government is attempting to step in and help curb these increases there is detraction among many people who are intimately aware of the situation that their efforts will not be enough.
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