This Thursday, August 25, 2016 we will be discussing overdose awareness with Debbie McCaffrey. As kids settle into school we should make them mindful of the signs of overdosing and how opioids and other drugs can impact their lives. We’ll be having a frank conversation with Debbie McCaffrey and spreading the word about International Overdose Awareness Day.
Updated tonight with the show:
The United States is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year on record. Deaths from drug overdose are up among both men and women, all races, and adults of nearly all ages.
More than three out of five drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. Overdose deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, have nearly quadrupled since 1999. Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 28,000 people in 2014. Over half of those deaths were from prescription opioids.
During 2014, a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, representing a 1-year increase of 6.5 per cent, from 13.8 per 100,000 persons in 2013 to 14.7 per 100,000 persons in 2014.
Source: Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Overview of an epidemic’. http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/index.html
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a synthetic, highly addictive opioid that can produce intense feelings of euphoria.
Heroin use has been increasing in recent years among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases have occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. In particular, heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade among young adults aged 18 to 25 years.1
Heroin-Related Overdose Deaths
As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths:
- Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2010.
- From 2013 to 2014, heroin overdose death rates increased by 26%, with more than 10,500 people dying in 2014.
- In 2013, non-Hispanic whites aged 18 to 44 years had the highest rate for heroin overdose death (7.0 per 100,000).
Past misuse of prescription opioids is the strongest risk factor for starting heroin use – especially among people who became dependent upon or abused prescription opioids in the past year.2 This indicates that the transition from prescription opioid non-medical use to heroin use may be part of the progression to addiction.
- More than nine in 10 people who used heroin in also used at least one other drug.
- Among new heroin users, approximately three out of four report having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
Increased availability, relatively low price (compared to prescription opioids), and high purity of heroin in the U.S. also have been identified as possible factors in the rising rate of heroin use. According to data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the amounts of heroin confiscated each year at the southwest border of the United States were approximately ≤500 kg during 2000–2008. This amount quadrupled to 2,196 kg in 2013.
Prescription Opioid Overdose Data
Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999,1 and so have sales of these prescription drugs.2 From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.1
Opioid prescribing continues to fuel the epidemic. Today, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.1 In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
Most Commonly Overdosed Opioids
The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include:
- Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®)
- Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®)3
Among those who died from prescription opioid overdose between 1999 and 2014:
- Overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.
- Overdose rates were higher among non-Hispanic whites and American Indian or Alaskan Natives, compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.
- Men were more likely to die from overdose, but the mortality gap between men and women is closing.4
Overdose is not the only risk related to prescription opioids. Misuse, abuse, and opioid use disorder (addiction) are also potential dangers.
- In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.5
- As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.6
- Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.7