Opioid Deaths Reached More Than 33,000 in 2015, Says CDC

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Opioid Deaths Reached More Than 33,000 in 2015, Says CDC

According to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid deaths numbered over 33,091 in the U.S. in 2015. These figures are based on national records, include both prescription drugs such as OxyContin, as well as heroin and its much more powerful cousin fentanyl. That number reflected a 72.2% jump from 2014.

Heroin deaths alone increased by more than 20% – among the eleven states that incurred increases, the greatest were seen in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Sixteen states saw synthetic opioid deaths increase. New York was at the top with a near 136% increase. Connecticut came in second with a 126% increase, and Illinois third at 120%.

Deaths from natural opioids (i.e. morphine) and semi-synthetic opioids (i.e. oxycodone) actually dropped 2.6%. That said, they were still the leading cause of more than 12,000 deaths. In addition, methadone deaths dropped by just over 9%.

Overall, opioids accounted for 63% of the 52,000 alcohol and drug-related overdose deaths in 2015. Increases were seen among both men and women, all ethnic backgrounds, all age groups over age 15, and all regions nationwide. Between 2010-2015, significant increases in overdoses occurred in 30 states plus Washington D.C.

The statistics do not come as a surprise to emergency response persons who have been witnessing a dramatic increase in incidents related to drug overdoses. While many die, countless more have been saved by first responders using the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Until the past few years, heroin and prescription drugs were among the opioids of greatest concern. However, that’s changed since fentanyl and carfentanil have been hitting the streets, as well. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. It’s also the drug that was responsible for the untimely death of the artist Prince back in April of this year.

Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, and is indicated only for use as a sedative on very large animals. It is so deadly to humans that even incidental skin contact can result in an overdose.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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