The Opioid Epidemic


The Opioid Epidemic: A Public Health Emergency That’s Killing More Americans Than Guns, Car Accidents, and Breast Cancer. Find out the best info about The Opioid Epidemic.

The Opioid epidemic is an unprecedented public health emergency across the United States. It has been described as an epidemic of addiction that is killing more Americans than guns, car accidents, and breast cancer combined (Cullen, 2017; Humphreys, 2018).

Throughout the country, people are dying from overdoses related to Opioid use and prescription pain medications. In New York, the rate of Opioid overdoses has risen by more than 200 percent since 2010. The epidemic devastates the health and well-being of people who abuse drugs, their families, and their communities.

Prescription opioids, including synthetics and methadone, continue to be a leading cause of drug overdose deaths. This trend is exacerbated by the increasing availability of illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Despite progress in prescription Opioid prescribing, these opioids and other illegally manufactured substances continue to threaten significantly, increasing overdose deaths.

Heroin, a potent illegal opioid injected into the body, has significantly contributed to overdoses in the past few years. During this period, heroin use increased across all age groups and socioeconomic levels. Compared to prescription opioids, heroin is more accessible, cheaper, and less dangerous to users. It also has a longer half-life, meaning it takes fewer doses to achieve the same effect.

CDC’s State-level Data for Overdose Deaths, 1999-2020

The Opioid crisis is an evolving issue that varies significantly among states and population subgroups. This webinar examined trends in the epidemic based on state-level drug overdose death data. Senior Research Fellow Colin Planalp provided an overview of the overall picture and analyzed how the top substances of concern vary by state, including overdose mortality involving cocaine and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine.

Overdose-Related Deaths by Drug Type: United States, 1999-2020

The national overdose death rates involving three categories of opioids–prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids other than methadone–have continued to rise through 2020. In 2020, overdose death involving prescription opioids rose by nearly 20%, while heroin overdose death rates remained relatively stable.

In addition, fentanyl overdose deaths and opioid-related death rates among Hispanic or Latino individuals jumped significantly over this period, as did drug overdose death rates for non-Hispanic or Latino individuals. While these increases were not statistically significant, they highlight the need for tailored policies and programs that target the unique needs of the Opioid epidemic.

SHADAC also produced briefs that provide high-level information about the Opioid crisis and addiction, examine trends in opioid-related mortality, and present the historical context for this national epidemic.

These briefs are intended to inform public health practitioners, policymakers, and the general public about this escalating and evolving public health emergency and its challenges. In addition, they include recommendations for addressing the epidemic. They will be available on SHADAC’s website in late spring and early summer 2019.

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