Opioid Dependence Kills More Americans Than Car Accidents

Opioid dependence is more likely to kill Americans than car accidents and other tragic events according to a recently released analysis made by the National Safety Council.

According to the Analysis; 1 in 96 Americans are likely to die from Opioid Dependence, while 1 in 103 Americans is likely to die in a car accident. The shocking likelihood of dying due to Opioid Dependence has surpassed the risk of dying in a car accident for the first time ever according to the safety council.

Generally, deaths by preventable injury are exceeded by major diseases including chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancers. Opioid Dependence death occurs due to accidental overdose attributed to the disease known as addiction.

Fold Increase of Drug-Related Deaths in the last Decade

The National Safety Council’s analysis comes from the 2017 mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data shows a drastic increase of 70,237 people who have died due to a drug overdose in America. The increase in opioid-related drug overdose is attributed to the easily accessible drug known as Fentanyl, a super potent synthetic-opioid drug. “Among the more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with nearly 30,000 overdose deaths.” according to the CDC. There has been a 2-fold increase of drug-related deaths due to both illicit and prescription opioid drugs in a decade.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data also shows the decline of mental health in Americans with a higher suicide rate, combined with the overdose rates, there is now a lower life expectancy of 78.6 years for those in the United States.

With nearly 466 lives lost each day due to accidental death in the United States, researchers are shocked by the data that has hit an all-time high. It is clear that changes are needed to educate the general public of dangers as well as how to protect themselves and their loved ones from accidental death.

National Overdose Deaths

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there has been a steady increase in the number of deaths due to all drugs in the United States. From 2002, with over 21000 deaths, to 2017, with over 72000 deaths, there was a 3.1-fold increase in the total number of deaths. The increase of deaths due to opioids was a 4.1-fold increase in the total number of deaths from 2002, with over 10,000 deaths, to 2017, with over 49,000 deaths. The number of deaths involving other synthetic opioids (predominantly fentanyl), from 2002 to 2017 there was a 22-fold increase in the total number of deaths. Overall the National Institute on Drug Abuse data shows the number of U.S. overdose deaths involving all drugs, opioid drugs, opioid analgesics (excluding non-methadone synthetic, the category dominated by illicit fentanyl), heroin, heroin and non-methadone synthetics (to capture illicit opioids), benzodiazepines, or cocaine from 2002 to 2017 has made a drastic increase in the United States.

President Trump Declared the Opioid Crisis as a Public Health Emergency

During the 2016 Presidential Election, our now President Donald Trump, pressed on the importance of addressing the opioid epidemic. His efforts consisted of revisiting regulations that roadblocked addiction treatment as well as pushing research into non-addictive pain relief medications. While in theory, his ideas of addressing the opioid epidemic are great, many advocates state that Trump has not done enough to address the mental health and addiction treatment services in the United States, to make them more readily available to drug users and in return preventing the senseless deaths due to overdose. President Trump declared the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, however, the Trump Administration has yet to create a solid plan of action to combat the opioid crisis according to Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.

In fall of 2018 legislation easily passed the Senate 98-1 on the bipartisan opioid bills. In part of Trump’s Opioid plan, ‘High-level fentanyl and heroin traffickers would not be eligible for credits to reduce their sentence. These credits are available to lower-level inmates, many of whom have a substance use disorder, and can be earned through participation in treatment programs. The bill also would require the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to submit a report on a pilot program for medication-assisted treatment.’: Source Axios.

The overall goal of the plan Trump’s Administration has put in place is to offer shorter sentencing for those with substance use disorder while holding firm on the maximum allowable time for those who are trafficking and distributing opioid drugs to Americans.

The Trump administration is also working to address campaign promises he made regarding the opioid crisis and requiring insurance to cover the cost of substance use disorder treatment services. This will address health care programs like Medicaid expansion access under the Affordable Care Act, which ultimately helped drug users get access to treatment.

A final piece to the puzzle with Trump’s promise to address the opioid crisis is funding for research into other non-addictive pain relief medications. According to Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, while addressing the opioid epidemic is mostly a bipartisan issue, “we need a sustainable funding stream, and it is only from Dems that we’ve had proposals to create a new funding stream, or to get sustained funding.”

The vast majority of the illicit opioid and synthetic opioid-drugs are found to be brought into the United States through the border. The Trump Administration has largely put its focus on the proposed southern border wall to stem drug trafficking, along with harsher sentencing on low-level drug offenders and zero tolerance policies on undocumented immigrants crossing the border.

Will The 2018 Drop in Overdose Deaths Level off in 2018?

The Center for Disease Control’s most recent data has shown a 2.8% drop in overdose deaths in a 12 month period that ended in March of 2018. While it does seem that the number of overdose deaths is beginning to level off there are still tens of thousands of people dying from opioid overdose each year. The director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, cautioned that while that data is promising, it’s still preliminary, according to Politico.

Without certainty to what is driving the decrease in overdose deaths, the Trump administration is patting themselves on the back as Trump himself said in May of 2018  “the numbers are way down” and that his administration was “doing a good job with it.” While the numbers have gone down small percentage skeptics of the Trump Administration say it has little to nothing to do with what small effort they have put into addressing the opioid crisis with the exception to making it a public concern and putting some pressure on Congress to get something done.

Regardless to congress directing billings of dollars out to address the growing opioid crisis, the expanded access to treatment and prevention programs and the increase law enforcement efforts to curb trafficking, many public health experts are saying it is falling short on what needs to be done to truly address this crisis. Federal officials and lawmakers have also acknowledged that the opioid crisis is far from over and will require more time and addiction investments to truly see a decrease in the problem.

Together We Can Overcome Addiction

While the Government can invest money into curbing the Opioid Crisis, along with tightening laws to deter drug trafficking, it is up to the general public to do what’s needed to overcome Opioid Crisis that has destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. To do this as the general public we need to educate ourselves and our youth, to stand up and speak out against illicit drug trafficking and put pressure on Congress to get something done in terms of legislation.

How to Identify a Problem Before it Starts

Due to the widespread nature of the opioid crisis, it is not a surprise that many Americans have experienced the effects of Opioid Dependence up close. While most people who use prescription opioids do not become addicted, there are some who find themselves in a place they never thought they could be and begin to misuse the drug and develop an addiction. National studies have found that 21 to 29 percent of people prescribed opioid drugs have misused them. Of those individuals prescribed opioids, 4 to 6 percent of them will progress to heroin for a cheaper and more readily available opioid drug. The importance of being extra careful when taking an opioid medication is clear when seeing these statistics.

Signs of Opioid Misuse

The signs of someone struggling with opioid misuse are both physical and behavioral. Common physical signs include; sudden relaxation or euphoria, drowsiness, confusion, constipation, nausea, and slowed breathing. There are also many behavioral signs of opioid misuse which include; taking the medication at a dose or frequency not prescribed by the doctor, taking the medication to get high, taking a opioid drug not prescribed to them, visiting multiple doctors in effort to obtain multiple prescriptions for the drug, abrupt financial struggles, mood swings and socially withdrawn.

Opioid Addiction and Withdrawal

The prolonged use of opioid drugs can result in tolerance, requiring higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. With this and the increased frequency of opioid use the body becomes addicted. Once addicted, dependent, on opioids the body experiences withdrawal symptoms when abruptly stopping its use. The withdrawal symptoms can be painfully uncomfortable, including but not limited to symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, sweating, cold flashes and goosebumps, uncontrollable leg movements and intense cravings.

If you notice any of the signs of symptoms of Opioid Addiction listed above in yourself or someone you care for, seek help.

Alternatives to Opioid Medications

Opioid medications are only recommended to be taken when necessary and on a short term basis. People with chronic pain are most susceptible to opioid misuse. It is important that both the prescribing medical professional and the individual are aware of this as well as the many alternatives to taking opioid medications. Alternative methods of pain management include; Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), antidepressants and anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, exercise, weight loss, meditation, physical therapy, yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), spinal manipulation therapy (SMT), acupuncture, and massage therapy,

Preventing Addiction in Your Children

Opioid misuse and addiction are most common in adults, however, there are many ways that parents can reduce their children’s risks of substance abuse. These prevention tools start during pregnancy by avoiding the use of drugs, alcohol or nicotine. During infancy, it is important to develop a strong bond with your child by being highly responsive to your child’s needs. During early development and preschool years, it is important to help your child to learn and develop behavioral control, to regulate and express their emotions in a healthy way. It is also important in early childhood to help your child to be prepared academically and offer them assistance where needed.

As your child grows it is important to give them Warmth and affection, to hold age-appropriate expectations, stay consistent in routines and rules, always offer praise for accomplishments, give them opportunities to socialize with peers, allow them the opportunity for physical exercise through sports, and always offer them support during transitional moments. While all of this seems the what the average parent will do for their child in their early years of life it is going to help mold them into adults who know how to cope with life’s stressors and challenges and in the long run, make them less likely to misuse or abuse drugs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Opioid addiction, you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women throughout our Nation who have been affected by the opioid crisis. Just as there are thousands of people struck down by the Opioid Crisis there are thousands more who are here to help; including medical providers, treatment centers, support groups, addiction hotlines, online resources and organizations committed to combating opioid addiction.