These states have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic

These states have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic

While there’s early evidence that the explosive rate of opioid deaths has started to slow, opioids killed more than 49,000 people in the United States in 2017, according to preliminary data. A new study reveals which part of the country has been affected the most by the ongoing epidemic.

In a study of opioid deaths from 1999 to 2016, “we found that, in general, opioid mortality is skyrocketing,” said Mathew Kiang, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Population Health Sciences.

Synthetic opioids are manmade drugs such as fentanyl, as opposed to semi-synthetic opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, or natural opioids such as codeine and morphine.

Fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and just ¼ of a milligram can be deadly. For comparison, a standard low-dose aspirin is 81 mg. If you were to cut that tablet into 324 pieces, one of those pieces would equal ¼ milligram.

“One thing I do want to highlight is that, despite the large differences in deaths across states, there’s no evidence to suggest that there’s differences in use,” Kiang said. “What we think is happening is that the heroin just continues to get more and more potent in the eastern United States, whereas heroin [in] the western United States has traditionally been this brown tar heroin. It’s much harder to lace with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.”

At the national level, opioids were responsible for shaving 0.36 years off Americans’ life expectancy in 2016, the study says. That’s a greater loss of life than caused by guns or motor vehicle accidents.

New Hampshire and West Virginia saw the biggest drops in life expectancy, of more than a year, due to opioid deaths. Montana and Oregon were the only states to see a decline in opioid deaths from 1999 to 2016.

According to the report, “emerging research … suggests the opioid epidemic has evolved as a series of 3 intertwined but distinct epidemics, or waves, based on the types of opioids associated with mortality”:

  • 1990s-2010: Prescription painkillers
  • 2010-present: Heroin
  • 2013-present: Synthetic opioids

Utilizing data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics and the US census, Kiang and his colleagues identified 351,630 opioid-related deaths from 1999 to 2016. Over that 18-year period, deaths from opioids increased by 455%. Men, on average, died at age 39.8, women at age 43.5.

Kiang said that, if anything, the number of opioid deaths is probably underreported because synthetic opioids require additional testing by a medical examiner. He hopes testing for synthetic opioids will become standard whenever the cause of someone’s death is classified as an overdose.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, said, “to talk about solutions, you have to frame the problem the right way.” To him, that means looking at the opioid crisis not as an overdose epidemic but as an addiction epidemic.

“Preventing opioid addiction is necessary for the long term, so that this crisis ultimately comes to an end. And preventing opioid addiction really means much more cautious prescribing.”

Kiang agrees that there are multiple factors at work. “We need to make treatment at least as accessible, available and affordable as heroin,” he said. “It shouldn’t be harder to get help than it is to get heroin.”

3 Responses

  1. I would dearly love to read something about the supposed “epidemic” that DIDN’T quote He Who Must Not Be Named.

    Even better, I’d really love to see a MSM story that actually told some truths about the evil little schmuck.

  2. Opioids to bad they don’t knowwe the difference between illicit and prescribed I get very riled up about that because we know all those dead people didn’t die from taking their prescribed pain medication as directed. This needs to change we must differentiate between the two classes before more innocent people in pain have to resort to taking their own lives because of untreated pain. I just tried to end my life a few nights ago. I guess it just wasn’t my time im not out of the woods yet and am desperate to live but not like this im in physical hell. My doctor won’t adjust my dosage which converts to between 20&40mme a day. It doesn’t even work anymore it’s ineffective my doctor said according to the dea if the medication is not working to discontinue the medication instead of making it therapeutic. It’s like they want us to take our lives. I don’t have all that much to live for and certainly don’t consider screaming and crying everyday a healthy way to live it’s certainly not dignified. My dignity was stolen by doctors afraid to diagnose because then that would require treatment and nobody in the medical field wants to treat someone in my shape because they’d have the government ruining their lives. My life doesn’t matter to anyone we’ve been abandoned shamed and made to feel dirty by powers that be that don’t have a clue.

  3. It shouldn’t be harder for chronic pain patients to get pain meds than heroin either. Kolodny if full of it. The street opioids are an abuse problem. How can that be anything else? Kolodny doesn’t get to make up “facts” as he goes along. He’s not even a legitimate MD.

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