In mid-August the Center for Disease Control has released preliminary estimates for the number of Americans killed last year by drug overdoses: 72,287. That is almost 200 people dying every day in 2017. This death toll is staggering – the equivalent of a passenger jet crashing every day for an entire year.
As we wrote in a previous post on the Drug Overdose Death Epidemic, here are the growth rates for the last few years:
- 2014: 47,055
- 2015: 52,404 (+11.4%)
- 2016: 63,632 (+21.4%)
- 2017: 72,287 (+11.3%) – estimate
As the New York Times article (NYT; Aug-15, 2018) puts it:
Analysts pointed to two major reasons for the increase: A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and drugs are becoming more deadly. It is the second factor that most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.
Another article in the Washington Post (WaPo; Aug-15, 2018) points out that synthetic drugs including Fentanyl are responsible for the recent steep rise in lethal overdoses.
The regions affected most in terms of density of overdose death by 100,000 residents haven’t changed much:
The Appalachian region is still the hardest hit, with West Virginia showing the highest mortality rate with 58.7 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.
That said, the trends are not the same across all regions. To better visualize this, check out a web-page published by the National Center for Health Statistics titled Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts: It shows dashboards including with estimates, actual reported and predicted numbers and allows to download the underlying datasets. It is also updated every month as new data is received to provide the most recent 12-months ending period reports. From this web-page, here is the most recent growth trend by state:
The NYT article interprets these findings as follows:
In much of the West, overdose deaths have been flatter as the epidemic has raged in parts of the East and Midwest. That geographical pattern may be a result of the drug supply. Heroin sold west of the Mississippi tends to be processed into a form known as black tar that is difficult to mix with synthetic drugs. The heroin sold toward the east is a more processed white powder that is more easily combined with fentanyls.
Overdose deaths rose sharply in several mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states. In Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia, where the opioid death rate has been high for years, overdose deaths increased by more than 17 percent in each state. In New Jersey, they rose 27 percent.
Amidst all these depressing numbers, the author (Margot Sanger-Katz) finds some reasons for optimism, such as this:
In Dayton, Ohio, a hot spot for the epidemic, public health officials are seeing signs of progress. After instituting a new emergency response strategy — and drawing from new federal and state grant funds — the county health department has documented reductions in overdose deaths, emergency room visits and ambulance calls of more than 60 percent between January 2017 and June of this year.
The county has reduced medical opioid prescribing; increased addiction treatment resources; expanded community access to an anti-overdose drug called naloxone; and provided addiction treatment to prisoners in its county jail, among other measures.
Wherever addiction treatment is administered, we here at MedicalMime are happy to support those forms of treatment through our EHR (rehab) specifically designed for addiction treatment.