Mar 5, 2017

Drug overdose fatality rate higher than suicides, cars, guns

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows the rate of fatal drug overdoses has more than doubled since 1999. Those between 55 and 64 years of age were the hardest hit. Rates increased for both males and females and increased across all age groups.

The 2015 rate for fatal drug overdoses is higher than deaths from suicides (13.4 deaths per 100,000) car accidents (11.1 deaths per 100,000) and firearms:

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Data: Centers for Disease Control; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why this matters: The overall number of opioid overuse deaths quadrupled during the same time period, and in 2015 opioids killed more than 33,000 people — higher than ever before. States that Trump won like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio were hardest hit by fatal drug overdoses in 2015. Trump held a meeting in Feb. at the White House on how to respond to the opioid epidemic.

A key takeaway: The portion of fatal drug overdoses due to more lethal drugs is increasing, and it coincides with new CDC restrictions on prescribing pain meds (like semisynthetic opioids morphine or oxycodone) issued last year, per STAT. In sum, users had to turn to other drugs, like heroin, to feed their addiction.

  • The portion of fatal overdoses due to heroin tripled from 8 percent in 2010 to 25 percent in 2015
  • The portion due to synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) jumped from 8 percent to 18 percent. This is a big deal because synthetic opioids can be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, which puts emergency rooms at risk of running out of antidotes to treat overdoses

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