Across the US in just 14 months between 2016 and 2017 opioid overdoses increased by roughly 30%, according to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It recorded 142,000 overdoses in US hospital emergency departments between July 2016 and September 2017, saying this should be a “serious wake up call.”
According to the CDC, overdoses kill about five people every hour across the U.S. with the victims totalling 5,400 more in 2016 then the soldiers who died during the entire Vietnam war.
Not all of the overdoses in the study were fatal, but they are part of the grim toll opioids have taken. In 2016 in the US, illicit and prescription drug overdoses killed 64,000 people.
The CDC’s Vital Signs study looked at two different sets of data. The first set was, the Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) program, which is a snapshot of emergency department data from 16 states.
Out of those 16 states, eight of those states included saw “substantial” overdose increases of at least 25%. Two states reported overdoses more than doubled, including in Wisconsin with 109% and Delaware with 105% increases. Another dramatic increase occurred in Pennsylvania, where overdoses went up 81%.
Overdoses also increased in “cities and towns of all types”, the report said. Overdoses are often associated with rural America but metropolitan areas with 1 million or more people saw the steepest increase, at 54%.
While the CDC did not look at the source of opioids, Schuchat said illicit fentanyl-laced heroin is “a very major problem right now”.
The CDC’s second data set found that,the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP), which covers 60% of emergency departments in 45 states, to look at regional changes. Researchers said overdose rates in that system increased about 30% in all regions and most states.
Officials said in order to effectively stop our growing opioid crisis, that communities would need more naloxone, a drug that reverses an overdose, better access to mental health services and medication-assisted addiction treatment, harm reduction programs to screen for injection-drug associated diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, and for physicians to use prescription monitoring services.
Donald Trump has recently expressed a desire to “sue” opioid manufacturers, and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced the justice department’s support of local lawsuits. States like New York have filed suits against opioid manufacturers in recent months, blaming them for the on going epidemic sweeping the country.
Some changes to health programs, especially the public health insurance program for the poor, Medicaid, may be counterproductive to treating people addicted to opioids.
A quick example of this would be how the Trump administration has approved work requirements for Medicaid coverage in Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana.
The new requirements put in place are expected to leave thousands of disabled and poor Americans without any health coverage at all, largely thanks to bureaucratic hurdles the Trump administration has put into place.