CDC — Drug overdose deaths have more than doubled since 1999

Posted Feb 24, 2017 by Karen Graham
New figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have more than doubled since 1999, with a sharp spike in heroin overdose deaths.
Researchers Holly Hedegaard, with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Office of Analysis and Epidemiology, and Margaret Warner and Arialdi M. Miniño, with the NCHS Division of Vital Statistics compiled statistics that show the rate of U.S. drug overdose deaths more than doubled over a 16-year period, increasing from about 6 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 16 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, according to the CDC.
Perhaps not surprisingly, overdose deaths from heroin had a sharp rise. In 2010, heroin overdoses accounted for only 8.0 percent of overdose deaths, but by 2015, heroin accounted for 25 percent of the deaths. Cocaine overdose deaths also saw a rise, going from 13 percent in 2015 compared to 11 percent in 2010.
Additionally, the researchers also found that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and tramadol, also increased, more than doubling from 8.0 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2015. "The continuing rise in death rates related to heroin use and synthetic opioids is of great concern," said Dr. Larissa Mooney, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and director of the university's Addiction Medicine Clinic.
It is of great concern to health officials that with our increasing awareness of the opioid epidemic in this country and the increase in funding for opioid addiction, there still is an increase in drug users and overdose deaths. The new report "highlights an ongoing problem in that area," Mooney told Live Science.
Biggest surprise is the age group most affected by overdose deaths
Overall, the increase in drug overdose deaths was 2.5 times higher in 2015 as compared to 1999, with increases seen in both males and females, although male deaths were higher. Overdose deaths among Non-Hispanic black persons rose 63 percent, while overdose deaths among Hispanic persons rose 43 percent.
However, the number of overdose deaths among Non-Hispanic white persons rose an astounding 240 percent between 1999 and 2015. When looking at age groups, the biggest increase was found in adults aged 55–64, which saw a five-fold increase, from 4.2 percent in 1999 to 21.8 percent in 2015. It should also be noted that since 2005, the rate for adults aged 55-64 has continued to rise.
Marijuana has been wrongly linked to the opioid epidemic
Sean Spicer, the Trump administration's press secretary said the other day, "There's a big difference between that (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana. I think that when you see the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people."
Despite Spicer's apparent belief in marijuana use leading to opioid use and addiction, he is wrong. In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report detailing the findings on 10,000 medical marijuana studies.
In the report, only moderate evidence of the association with cannabis and the development of substance dependence and/or substance abuse with alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs was found in people using medical marijuana.
As a matter of fact, according to a study published in February this year, Cannabinoids, extracts of cannabis legally sold as medical marijuana, could reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms in heroin users, based on a number of animal studies and a small human pilot project.
In summarizing the statistics from the CDC report, it is obvious we have a serious opioid addiction problem in the U.S. and as long as we drag our feet, it will only get worse.