The decade of the 2010s shelled hospitals and first responders with an explosion of opioid-related illness, injury, and death. Preventable drug overdoses tallied 54,793 lives lost in 2016 – an increase of 391 percent since 1999. Accidental drug overdose deaths increased 327 percent over the same period.
The majority of OD deaths (38,000) involve opioids. The drug category most frequently involved in opioid overdoses and growing at the fastest pace includes fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and . The fentanyl category of opioids accounted for nearly half of opioid-related deaths. The dirty cat in the litter, heroin, accounted for the second highest number of deaths, claiming 14,606 lives.
Legislative attempts to curb the use of potentially lethal drugs resemble shooting an arrow and then drawing a target around where it hit. Locking up dealers and traffickers, creating prescription databases and prescribing limits, and promoting Narcan availability all deal with control of the supply and its aftermath. The demand is unchanged. Within a cultural adoration of the buzz, our current crisis can only be curbed by control of the demand. If a drug user wants a drug, they will get that drug. It's the American freedom thing.
Scott Stevens is a journalist, posting regularly on health and alcohol issues for online news services, and is a founding influencer at the world's largest medical portal, HealthTap. He blends intensive evidence-based research, wit, journalistic objectivity, blunt personal dialogue and no-nonsense business perspective in his four award-winning health and addiction books.
Join Scott Stevens and me on Tuesday, March 5, 10-11 A.M. CT US. We will be having a conversation about his life’s journey, and his latest book, Look What Dragged the Cat in: The Rise of an Opioid Crisis.