While it appears that smoking rates may be on the decline, opiate use is, apparently, much higher this year. As a matter of fact, reports showed more drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2014 than in the previous year; opioid overdose deaths led the spike.
Recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, released today, indicate that opioid overdose deaths—which includes deaths from both pharmaceutical and street drugs—hit record highs, skyrocketing 14 percent.
In the report, the CDC said, “Nearly every aspect of the opioid overdose death epidemic worsened in 2014.”
Furthermore, the CDC comments, “Increases in prescription opioid pain reliever and heroin deaths are the biggest driver of the drug overdose epidemic. Deaths from heroin increased in 2014, continuing a sharp rise that has seen heroin overdoses triple since 2010. Deaths involving illicitly made fentanyl, a potent opioid often added to or sold as heroin, also are on the upswing.”
The report details that the death rate associated with the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers (both natural and semisynthetic drugs) increased by 9 percent. Heroin-related deaths rose an alarming 26 percent and the death rate associated with synthetic opioids—this is the category which includes illegally manufactured fentanyl as well as synthetic opioids like (but not including) methadone—jumped an astounding 80 percent.
Overall, the study found that opioids were associated with 28,647 deaths in 2014. This accounts for 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths. The CDC also makes sure to note that this is three times higher than the opiate-associated death rate in 2000.
“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a statement. “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders. This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids.”
In addition, the report—which has been in the CDC’s December 18th Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report—shows that drug overdose deaths increased in both women and men as well as in non-Hispanic whites and blacks and almost every adult age group. Also, drug overdose rates grew the most in West Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Kentucky, and New Mexico.