In 2016, over 52,000 people lost their lives to a drug overdose, and many experts expect the epidemic to get worse before it gets better. Deaths caused by overdose increased by 11% and now far outnumber the number of deaths caused by car accidents (37,757) and gun deaths (36,252). The major increases in drug overdose deaths caused the first decline in American life expectancy since 1993.
The Heroin and Prescription Painkiller Epidemic
Painkillers including synthetic opioids accounted for over 27,000 overdose deaths in the last year. Experts say that the rising number of drug overdose deaths over the last 20 years has its roots in the sharp increase in opioid painkiller prescriptions since 1990.
Many experts trace the opioid epidemic to the huge increase in prescription painkiller use in the 1990s and early 2000s. Opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin, are completely legal. However, “pill mills” that issued illicit prescriptions to addicts were prevalent in the 1990s and 2000s. By the late 2000s, both federal and state governments cracked down on the way medical professionals prescribe these drugs, these painkillers are often still readily available to addicts.
The sheer number of Americans who abuse prescription drugs is staggering. Research shows that in 2016, one in twenty people in the U.S. over the age of twelve has reported using painkillers for non-medical reasons. In addition, many opioid users turn to sedatives to feed their addictions, often using multiple types of opioids in addition to other sedatives such as alcohol, which makes for a potent and often deadly cocktail.
What’s worse, there is a troubling link between opioid users and heroin addicts, as heroin offers the same high for a cheaper price and without the prescription. Studies show that almost half of people addicted to heroin are also addicted to painkillers. Further research shows that people who are addicted to prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin.
Over the past five years, heroin-related deaths have tripled. Additionally, over the past 10 years, heroin-related deaths have more than quintupled.
This transition from prescription painkillers to illicit opioids, such as heroin, has directly contributed to the increase in heroin-related deaths. In 2015, for the first time since the 1990s, heroin deaths outnumbered those from prescription opioid painkillers.
In addition to the rise in drug overdose deaths from legal opioid painkillers, there has also been a staggering rise in heroin-related deaths in the past 15 years. From 199 to 2014, Heroin-related deaths increased 439%. That number alone is staggering, but the increase has been most dramatic in the last decade.
Treatment Helps People Through the Pain
Even though many experts expect the epidemic to get worse, the government is taking the issue seriously. Congress recently passed a $1 billion bill to combat the opioid epidemic, with much of that funding going to expanding treatment options for those addicted to opioids.
For those looking to begin the journey to long-term recovery, many recovery centers offer varying levels of care which can help keep people achieve sobriety through comprehensive medical, psychiatric, counseling, and therapy services. In addition, treatment centers that focus their programs around individuals’ unique situations have been shown to produce the best and most sustainable results. By offering a variety of approaches to treatment, such as traditional or innovative treatment methods as well as a faith-based or non-faith-based approach, many innovative recovery centers are finding that creating a customized and personalized treatment program provides the best path to establishing long-term sobriety.
Drug Overdose Deaths Don’t Have to Be Your Reality
Morningside Recovery helps people through the process of quitting and coping with addictions. If you or someone you know has a heroin addiction, prescription drug addiction, cocaine, alcohol or any other substance, please contact us for information about how our addiction therapy services can help people achieve sustainable sobriety. Call us at (844) 830-3518 to get help and prevent drug overdose deaths today. Our helpline is open 24/7 and our specialists will work with you to help find a treatment plan that works.