Drug Alert: Opiate Overdose Deaths are On the Rise

There were more fatal drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year on record in the United States. That number, to be exact, was 47,055. 47,055 drug overdose deaths in one year alone; 1.5 times more drug-related deaths than fatal motor vehicle crashes.

Published at the start of the New Year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from the year 2000 to 2014, our country has seen nearly half a million deaths attributed to drug overdose. Opiates, specifically prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the leading perpetrators of this plague.

Opiates are a genre of drugs that are most commonly used to treat pain. Some are prescribed by a doctor, while others are used illegally. Next to marijuana, opiates are the most widely abused illicit drugs in our country today. Many adolescents and young adults do not find them harmful. Many do not see the risk in long-term use of prescription drug use. Many do not know the real danger that opiates can pose against our lives.

It’s time to face the facts, and increase the awareness of this dangerous drug species. Opiate drugs are most known for their fast-acting and powerful impact on the body. The work intensely on the nervous system, influencing the way a person receives pain and the way the brain experiences pleasure. After one dose, a user can experience euphoria and relaxation in a matter of minutes. And after that dose, he or she will want to do it again.

The reason opiates have become the leading cause of drug overdose today lies primarily in their addictiveness. An opiate user can develop a dependence on the drug in as little as two days and with repeated use, can develop a full-blown addiction within four weeks. Once a dependence develops, so will a user’s tolerance. Opiate users will begin to increase their dosages to achieve the same high. The prescribed, or original, amount becomes insufficient and simply “not enough” to numb the pain. They take more and more, until their body can no longer handle it.

Of the 47,055 overdose deaths in 2014, over 60 percent were due to opiate abuse. The illicit drug heroin, a Schedule I drug, was in the driver’s seat. Despite the decline of heroin use among adolescents, overall heroin deaths have tripled since 2010 and continue to rise each year. It is no wonder why this is the case. There are many aspects of heroin that are dangerous, but perhaps the most fatal is the risk of respiratory depression. When heroin is consumed, it restricts the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. This, in most cases, results in coma or death.

The reality is, most serious users switch to heroin after becoming dependent on the more expensive prescription pills. It is an “easier” option for opiate addicts. It is also more dangerous; it is often impure. In their recent report, the CDC also revealed another opioid drug that contributed to heroin and opiate-related deaths in 2014: fentanyl. In combination with heroin (as it is often found) or simply sold as heroin, fentanyl is emerging as one of the most powerful, synthetic opioids today. With 50 percent times more potency than heroin, it is also contributing to the recent rise in deaths from opiate overdose.

These recent facts have lead us to an undeniable, heartbreaking truth: the drug epidemic continues throughout the United States. Our next steps, however, have been made clearer. We need to continue our prevention efforts against opiate abuse in our country. We need to reduce the number of prescriptions, the number of users, the number of addictions, and the number of deaths related to overdose by educating others on the many opiate risks. Most of all, we need to improve treatment capacity for those needing opiate addiction treatment and reduce the stigma of drug addiction.

Let’s start today. Call Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 for more information on drug addiction and the overdose epidemic. Together, we can get our friends and family the help they deserve.