30 percent rise in overdoses shows opioid epidemic getting worse: CDC

30 percent rise in overdoses shows opioid epidemic getting worse: CDC

According to a report just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose all across the country an average of 30 percent, from July 2016 through September 2017.

Some areas were substantially worse. The Midwestern region was particularly hard hit, experiencing 70 percent increases. Many large cities in at least 16 states experienced 54 percent increases in opioid overdoses. Although a few areas actually declined, the overall picture is gloomy indeed.

Breakdowns of affected populations showed that opioid overdoses increased for both sexes and all age groups.

Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat told the NPR show All Things Considered that “we have an emergency on our hands. The fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic continues and is accelerating. We saw, sadly, that in every region, in every age group of adults, in both men and women, overdoses from opioids are increasing.”

One doesn’t normally associate deadly drug overdoses with a bucolic Midwest state like Wisconsin, but a 109 percent increase in Wisconsin is what drove the unprecedented 70 percent jump across the whole Midwest.

In the West, there was a 40.3 percent increase, a 21.3 percent increase in the Northeast, a 20.2 percent increase in the Southwest and a 14 percent rise in the Southeast.

It could even be worse

“It might be even worse,” Schuchat said, because many people who overdose never end up in the emergency room, so they go unreported.

The wide variations in opioid overdoses may be due to differences in availability of the newer, deadly powerful opioids of the fentanyl family. These drugs are often mixed with heroin, and are driving the colossal rise in overdoses – especially the fatal overdoses.

“We think that the number of people addicted to opioids is relatively stable. But the substances are more dangerous than five years ago,” Schuchat said. “The margin of error for taking one of these substances is small now and people may not know what they have.”

Statistically, says the CDC, once someone has experienced an opioid overdose they are more likely to suffer another overdose – and another.

In other words, no matter how scary the first overdose was, or how close to death the victim may have been, that experience is not the significant call for change that friends and family members hope for.

Emergency room referrals

Integrating addiction treatment into the health care system is seen as key to effectively slow or halt the epidemic. Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum, told NPR that “emergency room staff need better training to make sure people with substance-use disorders get follow-up addiction treatment. Too often, addicts are simply revived and sent home without follow-up care, only to overdose again,” she said. “We can use this near-death experience as a moment to change that person's life.”

In fact, says the CDC, many emergency departments are already taking on the extra responsibility of referring overdose victims to local treatment facilities. Referrals to support programs “can make the difference in avoiding second or subsequent opioid overdoses,” the CDC said.

If you or someone you care about has a problem with opioids, realize that the situation has never been as dangerous as it is now. So don’t hesitate, call Novus for help right away.

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