The last study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed how the United States’ deaths linked to drug overdoses is a serious problem from year to year. There is a worrying number of deaths produced by heroin, given that 25 percent of the cases registered in 2015 are connected to the use of opioids.
Opioid-related overdoses deaths represent the majority of cases according to the study, as it is the 60 percent of all the demises caused by drug excesses. This number shows a significant growth when compared to 2010 numbers. In that year, the number of deaths caused by opioids was 50 percent. In 1999, only 6 percent of registered deaths was caused by heroin, as opioids also include the use of drugs with a similar structure, such as oxycodone and synthetics like fentanyl.
Co-author of the study and member of the National Center for Health Statistics, Dr. Holly Hedegaard, noted that 2015 was the year in which more deaths produced by drug overdoses were registered in the history of the United States, as it never exceeded the 50,000 death barrier. However, in 2015, there were over 52,000 cases registered, a considerable augment from the 38,000 deaths presented in the year 2010. In the firearm department, the number of deaths was 36,000, meaning 16,000 deaths less than the ones produced by drug overdoses.
However, in 2015, there were over 52,000 cases registered, a considerable increase from the 38,000 deaths presented in the year 2010. In the firearm department, the number of deaths was 36,000, meaning 16,000 deaths less than the ones produced by drug overdoses.
Heroin: United States’ serious problem
The number of fatalities caused by opioids like heroin and fentanyl suffered a significant augment when comparing to other years. Fentanyl was, in fact, the substance that produced the disease of pop star Prince last year. In 2010, opioid-related drug overdoses deaths only represented 8 percent of registered cases. However, only five years later that number rose more than two times to reach the 18 percent mark.
The study showed an increase in deaths related to synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and heroin, and a decrease in deaths linked to the use of natural and semisynthetic opioid analgesics, like oxycodone and hydrocodone. In fact, this particular type of drug was the responsible for 29 percent of drug overdoses in 2010, and it fell to 24 percent in comparison to 2015 numbers.
The researchers from the CDC explained that this decrease could be related to a change of habits in consumers, as most of them started in prescripted drugs like oxycodone and then moved forward to drugs like heroin due to cost and legal reasons (polemic of prescripted opioids as legal treatments).
“Because heroin and synthetic opioids are cheaper than prescription opioids and more widely available in certain areas hit hard by the epidemic, a singular focus on reducing accessibility to prescription opioids misses the mark,” Lindsey Vuolo, an associate director at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, said this Thursday during a conference.
In this issue, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Brandeis University’s Opioid Policy Research Center, states that this shift is only one side of the coin, as since 2010, “overdoses involving heroin has skyrocketed. There’s a really good chance the increase involving heroin has to be involved with fentanyl.”
How to solve this problem?
After the release of the worrying numbers of deaths caused by drug overdoses, political figures around the country have started to apply a substantial number of laws and regulations to stop this problem as soon as possible.
Later this month, the Governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie, initiated a series of limitation to prescribed opioids in the state, as prescriptions are now valid for up to five days tops.
Arizona also has implemented similar regulations to try to diminish the problem, as prescriptions are now only valid for up to seven days in that state.
The DEA has issued a list of drugs that are fentanyl variations as they consider them as “no currently accepted for medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Dr. Larissa Mooney, director of the University of California Los Angeles Addiction Medicine Clinic, also talked about how the study shows the urgency of taking actions regarding opioids. She said that improvement is needed as more access to treatments Countrywide is one way to achieve the goal.
The National Congress already assigned a federal budget to overcome this problem when it passed the 21st Century Cures Act last year. It granted $1 billion to the diminishment of opioid-related deaths. This money was also oriented to the expansion of a drug called buprenorphine, which is use to treat opioid addiction.
However, according to data published by the journal Addiction, Buprenorphine is not working efficiently on defeating opioid dependency.
“It’s no surprise that some people receiving buprenorphine are also receiving prescriptions of other opioids, but we were surprised by the number of patients receiving buprenorphine and other opioids,” said study author Dr. Caleb Alexander, reported CNN
44 percent of patients undergoing buprenorphine treatment are also receiving opioid prescriptions, as 67 percent of patients that already underwent the treatment are also acquiring the drugs.
Last year, the CDC published a body of guidelines to physicians across the country to stop opioid prescriptions, as the numbers presented by the study are worrying the entire country.