On average, 90 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose, and the overdose rate among kids has doubled since 2004. Those numbers are scary and heartbreaking, especially for anyone who’s been personally affected by the wreckage of addiction and overdose. Unfortunately, new data released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the situation is only getting worse.
The report detailed the findings of a study that shows a sad and startling trend in opioid overdose hospitalizations. By compiling emergency department data from hospitals in 52 jurisdictions across 45 U.S. states, CDC doctors found that emergency hospital visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased by 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
“Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. in a statement published Tuesday. “This fast-moving epidemic affects both men and women, and people of every age. It does not respect state or county lines and is still increasing in every region in the United States.”
Men and women of all ages saw increased rates of hospitalization due to opioid overdose. Hospitalization rates increased by 30 percent for men and 24 percent for women over the 15-month period. The hospitalization rate of people between the ages of 25 and 34 increased 31 percent; between 35 and 54, 36 percent; and among people 55 or older, 32 percent.
While the increase in hospitalization rate averaged out to 30 percent across the country, different states saw different severities of opioid hospitalizations. For instance, Wisconsin saw a 109-percent increase, and Delaware experienced a 105-percent increase. Meanwhile, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island saw increases of less than 10 percent.
Though the numbers seem grim, there are public health responses that can make a difference. CDC officials emphasize that early intervention at the first warning signs of problematic drug use could help spare people the disastrous effects of an overdose.
“Research shows that people who have had an overdose are more likely to have another. Emergency department education and post-overdose protocols, including providing naloxone and linking people to treatment, are critical needs,” said Alana Vivolo-Kantor, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist in CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in a statement. “Data on opioid overdoses treated in emergency departments can inform timely, strategic, and coordinated response efforts in the community as well.”
Recent research also shows that doctors can play a role, as they’re often the ones who provide the drugs that people abuse in the first place. Doctors say that the duration of prescriptions has been shown to predict opioid abuse even more than the dosage, so doctors should be especially wary of how long they prescribe opioids to patients.
New research suggests they should think twice about prescribing them at all. A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that opioids might even be less effective than non-opioid pain relievers like Tylenol for chronic joint pain. This knowledge, coupled with the CDC’s alarming numbers, provide strong evidence that the opioid crisis is being driven, at least in some part, by a medical practice that is questionable at best and actively harmful at worst.
Meanwhile, chemists are working on non-addictive opioid drugs, but while we wait for those chemicals to come to market, people are dying from overdoses. And if the trends the CDC identified keep up the way they are, the body count will only continue to rise.