Overdoses in Overdrive: 2016 Marks a Record High for Drug Overdose Deaths

opioid deaths 2016

2015 was a record-setting year for drug overdose deaths in the United States. Now, the 2016 numbers are in— and they are not boding well for the year ahead.

In late December 2017, the Centers for Disease Control revealed that the number of fatal drug overdoses in America rose 21 percent from 2015 to 2016, reaching a new all-time high of more than 63,600 people, all killed in the name of drugs. This is more than the number of American soldiers who died during the Vietnam War. This is nearly double the number of fatal car accidents in the U.S. in 2016.

Unfortunately, this overdose epidemic is affecting all demographics, including our teens and young adults. While the most shaken population is that of 25 to 44-year-olds, the rates of overdose deaths are growing fastest amongst our youth. The number of drug overdose deaths among 15 to 24-year-olds and 25 to 34-year-olds, jumped 28 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Amidst the heartbreaking consequences of a drug overdose epidemic, we must ask ourselves, what’s to blame? What is causing this tragic rise in drug overdose deaths?

Sources say it is a rise in opioid abuse that is killing our loved ones, or at the very least, putting them at risk. According to the recent report, about two-thirds of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 – over 42,000 fatalities – were opioid-related, involving synthetic, painkiller drugs like OxyContin and fentanyl, as well as illicit opiate drugs like heroin. This is more Americans lost to opioid overdose than to breast cancer.

Fentanyl – a dangerous, synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin – is the biggest player here. According to the CDC, the number of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl, a fentanyl analog, or similar nearly doubled in a single year. In fact, the rate of deadly overdoses from these synthetic opioids has skyrocketed an average of 88 percent each year since 2013. Renowned musician Prince and emerging rapper Lil Peep were both victims of this deadly drug.

The numbers are truly dispiriting, and unfortunately, there is no “good news” of this epidemic letting up. Provisional data of drug overdose deaths in 2017 suggests that fatal overdoses are still on the rise. The new CDC report estimates more than 66,000 drug overdose deaths last year. And this number is just preliminary – there are still pending toxicology reports that must be factored in.

"The fact that the data is incomplete and they represent an increase is concerning," Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, says to CNN.

Despite the devastating overdoses that continue to sweep the states, there is some hope for the future and our youth. According to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, illicit drug use among teens (including opioid abuse) has dropped dramatically in recent years – hitting record lows.

“Even as the country reels from the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, misuse of prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin and use of heroin are at record low levels among middle and high school students,” assures Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

What Parents Can Do to Prevent Overdoses in Our Youth

As parents, educators, and guardians—as friends, family members, and concerned loved ones—we can help protect our children from the deadly dangers of drug abuse. Talking to your teen or young adult about drugs is an important first step. Keep an open conversation regarding drug use, and educate your child on the deadly nature of synthetic drugs today – many times, people do not know what they are buying. Drugs are too often laced with other, unknown substances that can quickly lead to death.

As a parent, it is also important to get yourself educated on the signs of drug abuse and addiction. You should know if your teen or young adult is using drugs. If you know your son or daughter is abusing opioids like prescription painkillers or heroin, you can take a proactive step by knowing the signs of drug overdose, the importance of Narcan (or naloxone), and the significance of a long-term addiction treatment program.

Any addictive drug, including opioids, will change the chemical make-up in the brain. In order to heal the effects from drug abuse and reconstruct the neuropathways in the brain, users must fully commit to a long-term recovery plan. Most drug treatment professionals agree that a minimum of 90 days of consistent hard work just begins the healing process; a period of 12 months in long-term drug rehab will show even greater success.

In light of the soaring rate of drug overdose deaths in our country, we at Turnbridge urge parents to watch for the signs of drug abuse, overdose, and addiction. We encourage you to seek help from treatment professionals, no matter the stage or extent of your loved one’s drug problem. It is never too early to seek help. Contact Turnbridge young adult rehab at 877-581-1793 to learn more.