Published: Sun, February 26, 2017
Medical | By Ismael Lynch

Heroin overdoses in America more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2015

Heroin overdoses in America more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2015

From 1999 to 2015, the rate of drug overdose deaths in this age group increased from about 4 deaths per 100,000 people to about 22 deaths per 100,000 people.

Much of the turn to heroin can be attributed to increased prescription opioid use over the past decade.

Last year, the CDC introduced new guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers, with an aim of reducing the risk of addiction and overdose tied to these drugs.

In 2015, the highest rate of drug overdose deaths was among people ages 45 to 54, with a rate of 30 deaths per 100,000 people. In the firearm department, the number of deaths was 36,000, meaning 16,000 deaths less than the ones produced by drug overdoses.

"Life expectancy of whites in America is going down, whereas it's not going down for other racial or ethnic groups", Salsitz said. The states hit hardest by drug overdose deaths were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.

Fatal drug overdoses have more than doubled since 1999, rising from 6.1 deaths to 16.3 deaths per 100,000, but Bay State numbers have risen faster than the national average.

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Prescription drug abuse reached epidemic levels earlier this decade, prompting a crackdown by regulators, drug makers, pharmacists and physicians. While opioid abuse runs rampant, it's a nonprescription narcotic-heroin-that remains a top killer in the U.S. "Those with less education saw the most marked increases".

The rate of fatal drug overdoses in the United States increased more than 2.5 times from 1999 to 2015, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deaths from fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) have increased from accounting for 8 percent (of all overdoses) in 2010 to 18 percent in 2015. Opioids include heroin as well as drugs with a similar chemical structure, such as oxycodone and illicit synthetics like fentanyl. Fatalities tied to cocaine ticked up slightly, while natural and semisynthetic opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, decreased from 29 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015.

"I have yet to hear a convincing reason for why the Northeast is more affected than other parts of the country", said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, the medical director for Massachusetts General Hospital's Substance Use Disorder Initiative. By comparison, she noted, someone who has a heart attack receives extensive medical care to prevent it from happening again.

The CDC report states that policymakers need to make addiction-fighting medications more readily available so health professionals can treat the underlying drug habit.

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