Although there has been a lot of coverage about the opioid epidemic and the record number of overdoses, until recently there hasn’t been a more detailed look at exactly which substances are tied to the most fatalities. With updated information from the National Center for Health Statistics, it is clear that heroin and fentanyl are the biggest overdose threats currently.
Information from 2010 to 2014 showed a sharp increase in the number of heroin-related deaths, while those resulting from prescription painkillers remained relatively the same over that time period. In 2010, the most overdose deaths were from oxycodone, which amounted to 5,200 that year, while there were about 3,000 from heroin. Just four years later heroin led the way with over 11,000 deaths. It accounted for nearly a quarter of all overdose fatalities.
Researchers were also interested in the fact that many of the “heroin overdose deaths” involved more than one drug. Nearly half of all overdoses included multiple drugs being taken. One of the deadliest additives has been fentanyl, as it is incredibly potent and highly dangerous. Another important aspect of the multiple substance issue is that there are many accidental deaths caused by mixing prescription drugs, such as a painkiller and sedative while drinking alcohol.
While current drug policies are changing to focus more on treatment and rehabilitation, it is likely that more still needs to be done in order to reverse the upward trend of heroin overdose deaths in this country. The nation has been making much more of an effort over the past year, and we will have to wait to see statistics on whether that has been working. Either way, much more can and should be done to help save lives.
If you have a loved one struggling with an addiction to heroin or any other combination of drugs, contact Desert Cove today to find out more about successful treatment options.
The initial shame, embarrassment, guilt and shock that accompany finding out that a loved one is suffering from a heroin addiction can often lead families to decide not to discuss the issue or openly face the problem. Because heroin had previously been characterized as a drug only found in inner cities and among the older males in society, the new face of heroin addiction is taking many people by surprise.
However, the alarmingly high trend among heroin users is that the drug is moving out of the cities and into suburbia and the typical person hooked on the drug is no longer a lower class problem, but a middle and upper class epidemic as well that knows no boundaries. A possible reason attributed to high rate of heroin abuse within smaller neighborhoods is that many of the people affected by the problem refuse to talk about it.
Doctors and other experts describe the heroin problem as being the worst drug epidemic anyone has ever seen, however it is not discussed often on personal levels, but instead thought of as something “over there.” Despite the thousands of Americans dying from heroin overdoses, the media does not often report on the deaths unless it involves a celebrity, parents very rarely speak out against the drug problem that has invaded their homes and public officials are slow to pass legislation that would help addicts.
Many experts agree that the more people who speak out against heroin use and share their stories about how the drug affected their lives, the more society will become educated on the topic. When people hear from their friends and neighbors, it makes it much more real and less of an underground subject.
Drug education and prevention must move up to the next level in order to prevent further deaths from occurring. Instead of worrying about the embarrassment that may be associated with a loved one’s heroin abuse, parents and family members might consider vocalizing what is happening so other families do not have to suffer through the same issues. With the growing amount of heroin addicts in suburban areas, it would appear that families are not as alone as they might think.
The news is flooded with incidents and warnings about prescription drug abuse amongst teenagers and young adults, but the toll that the drugs are taking on the elderly is not often reported. The elderly population experiences many different varieties of pain and recuperation from surgical procedures that warrant the use of narcotic painkillers. However, despite these acceptable reasons for prescription narcotics, many physicians are not adequately explaining the side effects and potential for abuse that come along with medications like OxyContin or Percocet.
“More Americans overdose on prescription painkillers than on heroin and cocaine combined. Yet, these medications are marketed as the Cadillac option for treating pain. I doctors and their patients understand the risks and side effects, they can discuss safer, more effective options,” explained Deborah A.P. Hersman, President and CEO of the National Safety Council.
The Council recently released a paper discussing the dangers of prescription painkillers and their side effects compared to over-the-counter drugs. They found that older adults are four times more likely to have broken a bone while under the influence of narcotic painkillers. Additionally, 68 percent of older adults who take prescription painkillers are more likely to be hospitalized due to their use of the medications, and they are 87 percent more likely to die from taking them.
One of the arguments for prescribing narcotic painkillers to the elderly is that these pills are believed to be easier and safer on the digestive system than over the counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. However, the National Safety Council found that adults who are prescribed pills like Vicodin or Opana are just as likely to experience stomach problems.
While it is clear that adults who are over the age of 65 are more likely to experience health problems and issues that bring on pain, experts urge doctors to explore all methods of relief rather than relying on narcotic painkillers to take care of the issues. Patients who change their diet, exercise more and explore physical or occupational therapies may be able to get over their injuries and pain faster and without the physical dangers of those that rely on narcotic painkillers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) just released its annual report regarding the state of alcohol abuse and its consequences worldwide. The report showed that 3.3 million people died as a result of alcohol consumption in 2012, which was the most recent year of statistics available.
The Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health covers many regions, as there are 194 member countries of the Organization. About 38% of the world’s population aged 15 and older are drinkers, averaging about 11 ounces of pure alcohol consumed weekly. Nearly 8% of men and 4% of women died from alcohol-related causes, though there is concern over the increase in alcohol consumption by women.
According to Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO, “We found that worldwide about 16% of drinkers engage in heavy episodic drinking – often referred to as ‘binge-drinking’ – which is the most harmful to health. Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of alcohol. They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional family or community networks.”
The status report recommended that more countries implement health services to deliver prevention and treatment services, in particular increasing prevention, treatment and care for patients and their families, and supporting initiatives for screening and brief interventions. Other recommendation included more national awareness campaigns and policies to reduce harmful drinking.
Alcohol abuse is one of the leading preventable causes of death here in America. If you have a loved on in need of help for an an alcohol problem, contact Desert Cove Recovery today.