Drug Overdose Deaths Continue to Soar in 2016, Fueled by the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis in the United States simmered for years before many lawmakers and citizens took notice. Now, as the drug overdose epidemic bubbles over into every sector of American society, public health officials scramble to find effective solutions. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases the 2016 drug overdose statistics, showing a dramatic upswing in drug overdose deaths.
Understanding the Drug Overdose Statistics 2016
Each year, the CDC compiles data from the National Vital Statistics System, which tracks mortality and cause of death information from across U.S. states and territories. When a person dies under circumstances that indicate a possible drug overdose, public health officials may share autopsy data with the federal government to promote tracking of the cause of death for a variety of conditions. Any death defined as a drug poisoning (overdose) should become part of the CDC report. The specific cause of death might consist of a single drug or may reveal that a drug overdose had multiple reasons (e.g., heroin and fentanyl).
The new CDC report on drug overdose deaths includes data from 2016, the most recent available information. The report shows a sharp upswing in drug overdose deaths, with opioid abuse driving the trend.
Opioid Overdose Statistics
What the CDC Report Reveals about the Extent of the Opioid Overdose Crisis
The new figures from the CDC show that there were 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016. These tragic results represent an increase of approximately 15,000 deaths compared to 2015; thousands of broken families. So, what underlies this sharp rise in the overdose death rate? The following conclusions from the report shed light on the ongoing U.S. drug epidemic.
- The overall age-adjusted death rate due to overdose increased in 2016. In 1999, drug overdose contributed to 6.1 per 100,000 deaths. In 2016, that rate more than tripled to reach 19.8 per 100,000 deaths due to a drug overdose.
- Drug overdose death continues to accelerate. Examining the rate of change in the death rate sheds light on the overall pattern of overdose-related deaths. From 1999 to 2006, overdose deaths rose at a rate of 10% per year. The numbers leveled off from 2006 to 2014, during which time the death rate rose by a 3% annually. However, recent figures show a sharp spike in deaths, especially the ones related to opioids. From 2014 to 2016, the death rate from overdose rose by an astonishing 18% per year. If this pattern continues, the number of deaths due to drug overdose could climb to 100,000 in just a few years.
- Drugs now kill more Americans than car crashes. In decades past, motor vehicle accidents contributed to the majority of deaths in the “unintentional injuries” category used by the CDC to track all-cause mortality in the U.S. In 2016, however, drug overdoses overtook car crashes as the top cause of unintentional injury. Drug abuse is the leading cause of death for people under age 50.
- The opioid epidemic affects men more than women. In 2016, the drug overdose death rate for men was 26.2 per 100,000. For women, this number was significantly lower at 13.4 per 100,000. However, the overdose rate for women has risen more sharply over time. Compared to 1999, death rates have increased 343% for women compared to 319% for men.
- All age groups are affected. From 1999 to 2016, the drug overdose death rate rose across every age group. However, the most significant increase comes for adults aged 15 to 44. This result suggests that younger Americans are much more likely to die from an opioid overdose.
- The opioid epidemic continues to hit some geographic areas hard. West Virginia topped the list, with 52 per 100,000 deaths due to a drug overdose. Other mostly affected states are Ohio (39.1 per 100,000), New Hampshire (39.0 per 100,000 ), and Pennsylvania (37.9 per 100,000 ). Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are also areas that have been stricken economically by the decline of manufacturing jobs. Disability, mental health problems, and lack of opportunity contribute heavily to substance abuse.
- Most overdose deaths are accidental. According to the CDC report, 86% of drug overdose deaths were unintentional. Approximately 8% were suicides, while there is no precise determination of the real intent in 6% of cases.
Advice for Drug Addiction Victims
What does the CDC Report mean for people struggling with addiction? Many politicians ratcheted up their rhetoric about the opioid epidemic in 2016. However, the 2016 drug overdose statistics from the CDC clearly show that the trend continues to rise, not fall. The lack of a comprehensive plan to combat this crisis and a scarcity of resources is primarily to blame. Unfortunately, many plans to address the opioid epidemic focus on greater law enforcement rather than solving the actual underlying problems.
People on the front lines of the opioid crisis know that people often turn to drugs to numb their pain (both physical and emotional). They then inadvertently get stuck in a pattern of addiction that is so challenging to escape. Additionally, the lack of individualized and adequate mental health care in drug treatment programs places patients in an eternal revolving door of failed rehabs. That is why treatment approaches such as the Waismann Method treats opioid addiction by focusing on using state-of-the-art interventions. Individuals need medical detoxification in a way that is as safe, humane, and painless as possible. A comprehensive solution to the drug overdose death crisis must include expanded access to efficient and available treatment.
Educating affected individuals and motivating them to take the first step can also help reverse the effects of this tragic opioid epidemic. Furthermore, people need to know that they are seen and heard, they also need to feel understood, but most of all they need to be secure that help is available. We possess the science and the resources; let’s start applying them wisely.