The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released their annual report on drug-related death statistics for 2015. The agency, which acts as a leader in the field of public health, conducts and publishes overdose research and statistics on a yearly basis.
The numbers are shocking. Over 50,000 overdose deaths were reported across the US—more than any year on record. The official statistic shows an 11 percent increase from 2014, resulting in 52,404 deaths.
Specifically, heroin overdose deaths showed a 23 percent increase from 2014 to 2015, while overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increased by a staggering 73 percent. Prescription painkiller-related deaths showed an increase of only 4 percent, though the number of related deaths was higher than any other illicit substance.
As a nation struggling to combat the intensity and magnitude of this epidemic, these facts are particularly disturbing, and issues an urgent call for the availability of treatment to increase.
Officials have acknowledged the correlation between lack of treatment and the continuance of the epidemic. Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, stated that, “the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country—in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment.”
The CDC’s news also comes on the heels of another recently released report from the US Surgeon General, Dr. Viviek Murthy. In that report, Dr. Murthy put forth a call to action, stating that 1 in 7 US residents will now face some type of substance addiction in their lifetime. His extensive documentation of addiction-related issues plaguing the country revealed a renewed commitment to addiction education and treatment.
“For far too long, too many in our country have viewed addiction as a moral failing. This unfortunate stigma has created an added burden of shame that has made people with substance use disorders less likely to come forward and seek help,” said Dr. Murthy.
The stigma associated with addiction persists—just as the substance use epidemic itself continues to grow. As we are further confronted with the reality of the addiction crisis our country is experiencing, we must work harder than ever to shed the stigma, to commit ourselves to providing better treatment and aftercare, and to understand and empathize with individuals and families whom have been directly or indirectly affected by addiction.
We must work for change, and we must advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves.
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