Deaths caused by drug overdoses have jumped dramatically in the United States, driven largely by addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death rate from drug overdoses is climbing at an alarming rate and faster than other causes of death, jumping to an average of 15 per 100,000 in 2014 from nine per 100,000 in 2003.

The opiate addiction epidemic was fueled by misuse of highly addictive prescription painkillers to treat chronic pain, poor physician prescription management, and irresponsibility of the pharmaceutical industry that sold the notion that opioids were safe.  Nationally, opioids such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Morphine were involved in more than 61 percent of deaths from overdoses in 2014.  Carl R. Sullivan III, Director of Addiction Services at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, found that as laws were passed to address the misuse of prescription painkillers, addicts began turning to heroin.  In many cases, heroin may be cheaper to buy and easier to find, use and abuse.  Deaths from heroin overdoses have more than tripled since 2010 and are double the rate of deaths from cocaine (CDC).

Prescription opioid narcotics and heroin are both derivates of the opium poppy and used interchangeably by many addicts. Oxycodone, Percocet and other legally prescribed opioids mimic the effects of heroin on the mind and body, predisposing users to addiction while giving rise to an “epidemic of death” caused by prescription opioids, surpassing that of illicit drugs.

Opiate addiction does not discriminate, as no community or socioeconomic level is immune to this deadly affliction.  Surprisingly, death rates from overdoses in rural areas now outpace the rate in large metropolitan areas, which historically had higher rates.  To fight this national problem, more research is needed to help understand effective chronic pain management.  Researchers are exploring alternative methods and medications to alleviate pain and decrease abuse potential, including abuse prevention and identification of predisposing factors to addiction.

Read Article Here:  How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America



“Drug Poisoning Mortality: United States, 2002–2014.” NCHS Data Visualization Pilot. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

Park, Haeyoun, and Matthew Bloch. “How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

“Prescription Opioid Narcotics and Heroin.” ARPO RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.