11-03 | CDAH Team
More than six out of ten drug overdose deaths involve an opioid in the United States. As the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has increased four times since 1999, more than half a million people have died due to drug overdose between 2000 and 2015. On an average, 91 Americans die every day due to an opioid overdose. More than 15,000 people have died due to prescription opioid overdose in 2015.
Opioids have been driving the deadliest and most alarming epidemic in the U.S. since the last few decades. As a result, there has been consistent increase in the number of people grappling with opioid addiction. With the number of overdose deaths rising 137 percent from 2000 to 2014, experts and policymakers are now focusing upon understanding the role of opioids in such deaths.
Apparently, due to the lack of identification of drugs post fatal overdoses, the magnitude of the problem remains underestimated and numerous hurdles are witnessed in implementing effective drug policies. In similar lines, a correction method developed by a new study reveals that the number of opioid deaths in reality is more than the previously determined statistics.
The study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and conducted by Christopher J. Ruhm from Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia has revealed that opioid deaths were 24 percent higher than previously estimated in 2014.
On the estimation of deaths based on each drug, the number of heroin deaths was also calculated to be 22 percent higher than the previous evaluations. As a result, the total number of opioid overdose deaths increased from approximately 29,000 to over 35,000 in 2014.
One of the primary reasons behind the underestimation of opioid deaths was undercounting in some specific states, such as Pennsylvania, Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, and over counting in several states, such as South Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida and Kentucky.. In fact, the correct statistics is over 100 percent higher than earlier estimation.
Some of the other loopholes in determining the real statistics are the completion of death certificates by coroners rather than medical examiners and lack of national parameters for reference to count a death as an opioid overdose death. Due to the overlapping of symptoms, most of the conclusions are based on arbitrary measures. Therefore, the study looked into the death certificates used to arrive at the official statistics for opioid overdose deaths.
Researcher Ruhm created several maps to show the extent of underreporting in some states to provide clarity about the ground realities of high opioid deaths in the Midwest, South and West than previously understood. He did this by going through death certificates. This analysis provided an improved estimate of state-level opioid and heroin related drug fatality rates in 2014, as well as changes from 2008 to 2014.
The study suggests that the inaccurate figures resulting due to the absence of specification of drug involved in death in death certificates present significant challenges in addressing the opioid epidemic. Therefore, the federal policies need to be designed to target those states projecting inaccurate figures of deaths whether due to opioids or heroin.
Opioids have become the most abused drugs in the U.S. due to easy availability and legality. However, the legality does not diminish the addictive and harmful properties of the drug. People who are addicted to these substances may find it a challenge to stop using them due to severe withdrawal symptoms. However, the repercussions of opioids can be alleviated by willingness to change and determination to stick to it.
If you or your loved one is struggling with drug addiction, connect to the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline to know about the addiction treatment centers in Colorado specializing in the best evidence-based intervention plans. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 or chat online for further information on addiction treatment in Colorado.