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Overdose deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids on the rise

Overdose deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids on the rise

02-03 | CDAH Team

From 2010 through 2014, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States spiked sharply each year by 23 percent, from 38,329 in 2010 to 47,055 in 2014, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The percentage of drug overdose deaths increased from 67 percent in 2010 to 78 percent in 2014 – and the drugs most frequently responsible for these deaths were opioids including heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone, among others. Further, the CDC, in its national update released in December 2016, stated that since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died because of an opioid overdose. The CDC’s updated data also reveals that over 52,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2015, and 63 percent of the deaths (over 33,000) was attributable to a prescription or illicit opioid.

Synthetic opioids are narcotic, pain-relieving drugs that have a chemical structure similar to natural opiate drugs. Unlike natural plant-derived opiates, these are manufactured in laboratories, and semisynthetic opioids are synthesized from natural opioids. However, the qualities of both semisynthetic and synthetic opioids are similar to that of opiates.

Opioids – both as prescription and recreational drugs – are now one of the most abused drugs in the country, and the main reason for death by drug overdose. The most common synthetic opioids include methadone, fentanyl and meperidine, while oxycodone, hydromorphone, heroin and buprenorphine are semisynthetic opioids.

Opioids are prescribed by medical practitioners for pain management and should only be used under proper supervision. While their prescription-based use is legal, they can be lethal when abused –incorrectly or for a longer duration than recommended. People who are addicted often also change the method of ingesting the drug by crushing the pills and snorting the powder, or mixing the powder with water and injecting it directly.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “Tampering with how an opioid medication is manufactured can turn a long-acting, less potent medication, into a more potent, rapid acting one. If an extended release tablet is crushed, the medication becomes short-acting and more potent.” When the effect of the drug is short-lived, the user may start taking higher doses to get the same effect, thus beginning the vicious cycle of addiction.

Heroin and fentanyl costing lives of many

Deaths caused due to drug overdose and opioid intake continue to increase in the U.S. The black market throbbing with larger volumes of heroin at a cheap price is catering to millions of Americans of diverse age groups.

The CDC stated that heroin continues to be the deadliest narcotic in the nation, and was responsible for nearly one of every four overdose deaths in 2014. However, the report further finds that as the use of the more potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increases, the threat of overdose from such drugs is also rising. According to Emily Feinstein, director of health law and policy for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, fentanyl’s largest manufacturer is China and the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin. In fact, the deaths specifically related to fentanyl more than doubled in a year, growing from 1,905 in 2013 to 4,200 deaths in 2014. Additionally, in 2015, the death rates attributable to synthetic opioids (besides methadone) surged by 72 percent, while heroin overdose deaths increased by approximately 21 percent.

Seeking recovery from addiction

If you or someone you care about is addicted to drug abuse, help is at hand. Drugs can destroy your life and it is essential to get professional help. The Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline representatives can suggest drug rehabilitation centers in Colorado that offer excellent, holistic rehab and care to help break the cycle of addiction. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 today to find out about the best, state-of-the-art addiction treatment centers in Colorado or chat online with our experts for more information.


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