The opioid epidemic in the United States has reached new proportions, with daily reports of overdoses emerging from all corners of the country.
According to the CDC, opioid use was attributed in 28,000 deaths in 2014. A more harrowing statistic: at least half of opioid overdose deaths involved prescription medication, meaning that opioids are more accessible than ever.
CBS News recently published a report listing painkiller deaths from state to state. Of the 15 states listed, several have claimed 15 or more deaths per 100,000 people. New Mexico reported the most, with 27 deaths per 100,000 people; West Virginia reported 25.8 per 100,000.
Although all states have been affected by this public health crisis, some of have been hit harder than others. Besides New Mexico and West Virginia, twelve other states on the list have registered alarmingly high numbers of overdoses, including Nevada, Utah, and Alaska. Each of these states reported between 18 and 19 overdoses per 100,000 residents.
Rounding out the list were the states of Kentucky, Rhode Island, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Colorado.
The CDC notes that opioid overdoses have nearly quadrupled since 2000. Overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing even traffic accidents or accidental injuries.
Painkiller abuse often leads to abuse of stronger drugs. In particular, fentanyl—100 times stronger than morphine—has become a growing threat. The connection between the abuse of these substances, in addition to heroin, is at the forefront of national discussion. Overdoses have steadily climbed in number, while access to these fatal “designer” drugs remains.
Many states, including Florida, have equipped police officers with Narcan, the brand name of the overdose antidote naloxone. In many cases, dozens of doses are being administered every week.
Combatting this nationwide epidemic comes with many unanswered questions, though treatment and its accessibility hold the most important keys to saving lives.
The increase in painkiller abuse has resulted in a widespread need for resources and addiction treatment. As the epidemic spares no location, race, or socioeconomic group, it is clear that we must all be connected in moving forward to make addiction treatment and support available to all those who are suffering.
See CBS News’ full list here.
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