Overdose deaths involving opioids, 1999-2015. Data from National Institute on Drug Abuse. Graphic: The Conversation

By Andrew Kolodny
6 November 2017

(Quartz) – Drug overdose deaths, once rare, are now the leading cause of accidental death in the US, surpassing peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns, and HIV infection.

As a former public health official, clinician, and researcher, I’ve been engaged in efforts to control the opioid addiction epidemic for the past 15 years.

The data shows that the situation is dire and getting worse. Until opioids are prescribed more cautiously and until effective opioid addiction treatment becomes easier to access, overdose deaths will likely remain at record high levels. […]

Over the last two decades, as prescriptions for opioids began to soar, rates of addiction and overdose deaths increased in parallel.

The increase in opioid prescription was fueled by a multifaceted campaign underwritten by pharmaceutical companies. Doctors heard from their professional societies, their hospitals, and even from state medical boards that patients were suffering needlessly because of an overblown fear of addiction.

The campaign minimized opioid risks and exaggerated the benefits of using opioids over the long term for chronic pain. Several states and counties have recently filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers for the role they played in causing the opioid addiction epidemic by misleading the medical community.

Until 2011, most opioid overdose deaths involved prescription opioids. Then prescription opioid overdose deaths leveled off, while overdose deaths involving heroin began to soar. [more]

The magnitude of America’s opioid epidemic, in six charts


  1. Anonymous said...

    More b.s. from the government. More of the stupid "drug war" crap being shoved our way (again).

    It's not an "epidemic" when you deliberately try to kill yourself. We have other epidemics to classify: crime, murder (600 already in Chicago as I recall), burglary and theft (millions), unemployment (tens of millions), religious stupidity (billions) and so on.

    Pain relief is f'n real and I'm sick to death of being considered a criminal because I have severe physical injuries that haven't been fixed.

    Have you seen the cost of insurance these days? My son just got a new bill for his 2018 policy - it jumped up 400% per month. He won't have any insurance next year - just like me, I have not had any health insurance in over 25 years.

    Pain management is a way of life for many people, and all these stupid reports from the government, being blabbed about by the lamestream media does a lot of irreparable harm to people who really need some help (and relief).

    When it gets bad enough, I'm killing myself. Because that is what these asinine policies are making us do. We can't get the help we need. And nobody gives a damn.  

  2. Anonymous said...

    The real health epidemic is mental illness. Does anyone ever ask WHY so many people are on drugs? It's also rarely mentioned as the primary reason for mass shootings.  


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