5 States with High Rates of Deadly Drug Overdose


Overdose deaths involving opioids are on the rise in the United States.

Overdose deaths involving opioids are on the rise in the United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently examined data from the National Vital Statistics System to determine national trends in drug overdoses since 2000.

Prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone were the most common drugs associated with fatal overdoses, in addition to heroin.

CDC researchers found that opioids contributed to more than 28,000 US deaths in 2014, and opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000.

Overall drug overdose deaths increased, as well. In 2014, there were more than 47,000 fatal overdoses, which translated to a 6.5% increase from 13.8 per 100,000 people in 2013 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2014.

Individuals aged between 25 and 44 years, those aged older than 55 years, and white and African-American individuals saw significant increases in fatal drug overdoses.

In general, the Northeast, Midwest, and Southern regions were the areas that saw greater incidents of drug overdose deaths.

States with the highest rate of fatal overdoses were:

1. West Virginia (35.5 deaths per 100,000)

2. New Mexico (27.3 deaths per 100,000)

3. New Hampshire (26.2 deaths per 100,000)

4. Kentucky (24.7 deaths per 100,000)

5. Ohio (24.6 deaths per 100,000)

States with statistically significant increases in fatal overdose rates between 2013 and 2014 were:

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Illinois

4. Indiana

5. Maine

6. Maryland

7. Massachusetts

8. Michigan

9. New Hampshire

10. New Mexico

11. North Dakota

12. Ohio

13. Pennsylvania

14. Virginia

Another finding from the CDC’s analysis was that there were significant increases in illicit fentanyl seizures in Florida, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“There is a need for continued action to prevent opioid abuse, dependence, and death; improve treatment capacity for opioid use disorders; and reduce the supply of illicit opioids, particularly heroin and illicit fentanyl,” the researchers stated.

The study authors discovered that the largest bump in fatal overdoses between 2013 and 2014 involved synthetic opioids other than methadone, like fentanyl and tramadol.

Meanwhile, in 2014, drug overdose deaths from natural and semisynthetic opioids like morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone increased by 9% from 3.5 per 100,000 individuals in 2013.

The CDC advised health care providers to talk to patients on opioids about the risks of addiction and overdose. In some cases, OTC pain relievers, physical therapy, and exercise can be good alternatives for treating pain.

Health care professionals can also develop a plan for patients to reduce or stop opioid treatment, as well as educate patients on how to store and dispose opioids.

The researchers also stressed safer prescribing of opioids, since prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, and this parallels with increasing drug overdoses.

One way pharmacists can help is by distributing naloxone, an antidote tool that the researchers noted was especially important in curbing overdoses.

“[E]fforts are needed to protect persons already dependent on opioids from overdose and other harms,” the researchers stated. “This includes expanding access to and use of naloxone and increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, in combination with behavioral therapies.”

Increasingly, pharmacists are able to distribute the overdose antidote without the need for a prescription.

The CDC researchers also noted that there were 1.5 times more fatal drug overdoses than fatal car crashes between 2000 and 2014.

President Barack Obama cited this same fact in his October 2015 announcement about renewed efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse.

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