Opioid Addiction: The New American Reality
Officials in Louisville. Kentucky recently reported a significant spike in opioid-related drug overdoses, citing 52 incidents in a 32-hour period, a considerable increase from the average of 22 per day that Louisville’s Metro Emergency Services handled last year. Although the state of Kentucky has been front and center in the fight against prescription painkiller addiction, these numbers are of great concern even to those most familiar with the problem. Officials at local and regional hospitals have accepted this rampant addiction as a new reality. There were 695 overdose cases through the first month of 2017, a 33 percent increase from last year.
For all the media attention the recent uptick in Louisville is receiving, the tragic reality is that what’s happening there is not an isolated incident. It’s no stretch to say that, to borrow the aforementioned language from officials in Kentucky, opioid addiction is a new American reality, affecting every area of the United States. As synthetic opiate products complicate the issue further and more and more Americans succumb to painkillers and later graduate to heroin, American opioid addiction can scarcely be contained within one state or even an isolated group of them. Below are some facts that comprise a snapshot of the state of American Opioid addiction:
- California – Opioid-related ER visits have more than doubled from 2006 to 2014. In that same period, overdose deaths increased from approximately 1,500 to about 4,500.
- Oregon – Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid misuse in the nation, according to OHA. In 2013 nearly 1 in 4 Oregonians received a prescription for opioid medications.
- Indiana – Opioids are now the leading cause of injury death in Indiana, and drug overdoses cause more than nine out of ten poisoning deaths. In 2014, more than 1,100 Hoosiers died from drug poisoning, marking a 500-percent increase since 1999.
- Illinois – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the opioid-related death rate in Illinois rose 120 percent from 2014 from 2015.
- Ohio – Ohio saw more opioid overdose deaths than anywhere else in the nation in 2014, reporting 2,106 fatalities that year alone.
- Texas – Heroin deaths have risen over 300 percent and fatalities related to other opioids have risen even more in the Lone Star State.
- Florida – Florida was once known as the pill mill capital of the United States. In South Florida, the rate of overdose is approximately one every two hours.
- Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania saw 3,264 overdose deaths in 2015, a 20 percent increase from the year prior.
- New Hampshire – New Hampshire saw 422 overdose deaths in 2015, representing a 31 percent increase from the previous year.
- New Jersey – New Jersey saw a 16.4 percent increase in overdose deaths, with a total of 1,454 in 2015.
A closer look at the data will reveal an increase in practically every state in the union, making opioid addiction the single most dominant public health issue in the United States. This epidemic is driving up healthcare costs, destroying families and killing our friends and neighbors. Without comprehensive intervention and sensible prevention and treatment protocol, it’s only likely to get worse.