According to the CDC, America has been dealing with an opiate epidemic for more than a decade. Federal health officials reported that the number of Americans dying from accidental overdoses from narcotic painkillers has jumped significantly from 1999 to 2011.
Deaths from overdoses from drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and oxycodone (Oxycontin) climbed from 1.4 per 100,000 people to 5.4 per 100,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means about 3,000 people died in 1999 from unintentional overdoses. By 2011, that number was up to nearly 12,000 deaths the report said.
Despite the rising number of deaths, the rate of the climb has actually slowed since 2006, according to report co-authored Dr. Holly Hedegaard. Hedegaard is an epidemiologist at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). "Although the rate is still increasing, it is not increasing quite as fast as it did between 2000 and 2006," Hedegaard said. "From 1999 to 2006, the rate of deaths increased about 18 percent per year, but since 2006 it's only increasing about 3 percent per year."
Hedegaard thinks the slowing rate might be due in part to fewer deaths from methadone and some painkillers. Deaths from these drugs have leveled off or declined, she said. However, in 2011, benzodiazepines, which are sedatives (such as Xanax) used to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizuresm were involved in 31 percent of the narcotic painkiller deaths, up from 13 percent in 1999, according to the report published Sept. 16, 2014 in the NCHS Data Brief.
From 2006 to 2011, deaths involving benzodiazepines increased an average of 14 percent per year, while deaths from painkillers not involving benzodiazepines did not change significantly, the investigators reported. The report also found a striking increase in the number of deaths in people aged 55 to 64. In 1999, the rate was 1 per 100,000 people. By 2011, that number had jumped to more than 6 per 100,000, the findings showed.
There was also a dramatic rise in the number of deaths in caucasion people from opioid use; it was 4.5 times higher in 2011 than it had been in 1999. The increase in the number of deaths from opioids doubled during the same time period for African Americans, and increased just slightly for Hispanics, the study claimed.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and chief medical officer of the Phoenix House Foundation in New York City, said this "epidemic" can be brought under control. "We have to stop creating new cases of addiction. That boils down to getting the medical community to prescribe more cautiously," he said.
"It's not that doctors are intentionally causing an epidemic, but they are over-prescribing painkillers, particularly for common chronic problems like lower back pain and headaches," he explained. Hopefully with these new stats available our local medical community can help increase the awareness and help cut back on the abuse.