New evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that opioid-related deaths may be increasing at an even more alarming rate than what is currently being reported.
The CDC has informed the public that the opioid epidemic could be “underestimated,” with deaths from infections or other conditions often overshadowing toxic levels of opioids within the body at the time of death.
One CDC field officer from Minnesota, Dr. Victoria Hall, explained that over half of opioid-related deaths in her state were not included in state totals, directly affecting overall nationwide overdose data.
According to a press release from the CDC, the Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference (EIS) featured Hall’s research, among other key research findings over the past year. The release states that, in reference to these discoveries, “The contributions of opioid toxicity, infectious disease, and their interactions that result in death may inform future prevention efforts.”
In earlier data, the CDC has reported that 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose on a daily basis. To consider that this figure may be even higher is shocking—and leaves room for many unanswered questions.
Although it is uncertain what additional portion of deaths could actually be attributed to opioid toxicity, it is apparent that this research bears further scrutiny.
The American Society for Addiction Medicine has reported that 20,101 deaths in 2015 were officially caused by opioid overdoses. With studies such as Hall’s beginning to emerge, we are faced with an intensified need to re-examine reports to gain a more accurate understanding of how the epidemic has grown.
According to Hall’s report, opioid users are at higher risk to contract pneumonia, as their immune systems can be compromised from drug misuse. This insight has professionals wondering how we can improve the process of investigation in autopsy procedures.
As Hall noted, “It’s quite concerning, because it means that the [opioid] epidemic, which is already quite severe, could potentially be even worse. While my data doesn’t support a percent that we’re underestimating, it puts out the question: Is there something we need to look into further?”
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