Reports from across the nation show that the increase of drug overdose deaths has not slowed down. Drug deaths have increased by four percent between 2014 and 2015, from 13 to 13.5 deaths per every 100,000 people, shows the America's Health Rankings' annual report. This increase is steady across the U.S. as more and more people move from abusing prescription drugs to abusing heavier illegal drugs as regulations regarding prescriptions change. Overdose deaths from drugs are now the leading cause of deaths by injury.
In 2013, there were more than 24 million Americans over the age of twelve who had used an illicit drug such as marijuana, cocaine, and opiates, either illegal ones or those from misused prescriptions. While marijuana has held the number one place for the drug most used, prescription drugs have been solidly holding the number two spot for a while. Now the epidemic is growing at such a rate that portions of the population that were previously unaffected is now struggling.
While opiate abuse and overdose deaths used to primarily by a concern among poor populations, those rates have become more static across the board. People from every socio-economic status are now seeing overdose deaths, says Dr. Redd Tuckson. Tuckson is a senior medical adviser to the United Health Foundation, which is the foundation that collected the data for this report. The data further shows that the states who are being hit the hardest from the opiate epidemic are West Virginia, Kentucky, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah while South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska are seeing the lowest rates of overdose deaths.
These concerns have been rising for years, as the amount of prescription opiates that are being prescribed and sold across the nation has quadrupled since 1999. However, while a number of prescriptions have risen drastically, Americans have not been reporting an increase in the amount of pain that they are experiencing. This has led to crackdowns on the subscribing of pain medication as it became apparent that many physicians are writing inappropriate prescriptions.
In addition to the increase in prescriptions for opiates and the health crisis of drug overdoses, issues such as diabetes and obesity are plaguing the nation. The obesity rate has grown by almost 18% in the last twenty-five years and now almost one-third of the U.S. is suffering from obesity. The diabetes rate has grown as well in the last twenty years, with one in ten adults in the US reporting with diabetes.
While these statistics are frightening, there are some good spots contained in the report. More Americans are becoming physically active to combat the obesity levels and smoking has dropped dramatically. Tuckson hopes that these two changes show that people in the population are beginning to see the sort of struggles that obesity and diabetes can cause for people. While there is hope that these numbers will go down, the report calls for action from organizations on the local, state, and national level to combat these public health issues.
Unfortunately, while the information is out there, it is up to individuals to read it and act upon it.