More Than 47,000 Americans Died of Drug Overdoses in 2014, Setting Record

More than 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2014, setting a new record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drug overdoses increased 6.5 percent from 2013.

The states with the highest overdose death rates were West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Ohio, Reuters reports. Deaths from opioids, including painkillers and heroin, accounted for 61 percent of overdose deaths in 2014. Opioid deaths increased 14 percent from the previous year. Deaths involving illicitly made fentanyl, a potent opioid often added to or sold as heroin, also are increasing, the CDC noted.

“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities.”

The increased availability of heroin, its relatively low price compared to prescription opioids, and high purity appear to be factors in the increase in heroin use, overdoses, and deaths, the CDC said.

Overall, drug overdose deaths have increased 137 percent since 2000. Opioid overdose deaths rose 200 percent during that period. The CDC noted almost half a million people in the United States have died from drug overdoses since 2000.

The most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type, the CDC said. These deaths rose by 9 percent.

The CDC recommended steps to prevent overdose deaths. These include providing health care professionals with safer guidelines for prescribing opioids; expanding access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment, including medication-assisted treatment; expanding access and use of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone; and improving communication between state and local public health agencies, medical examiners and coroners, and law enforcement agencies to detect and respond to illicit opioid overdose outbreaks.

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    Ken Wolski, RN, MPA

    January 8, 2016 at 5:16 PM

    Legal medical cannabis has been shown to significantly reduce deaths from prescription opioid painkillers: “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”
    Bachhuber et al. Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA Intern Med. 2014.

    Far from being a “gateway” drug, marijuana is actually an “exit drug”—it serves as a substitute and helps to wean people off more dangerous and addicting prescription drugs, street drugs and even alcohol.

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    katherine

    January 7, 2016 at 3:57 PM

    In a comprehensive approach to decreasing addiction and overdose, science-based and social-emotional skill building prevention education must be included.

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    Floyd Frantz

    January 7, 2016 at 2:02 PM

    Add the number of gun deaths and it hits over 100,000 + the suicide deaths…..I fear that America has lost it’s common sense.

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    Toni Black

    January 7, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    Yes,,,,these numbers ARE staggering, however, sadly, do not surprise me at all. And to think this does NOT include alcohol/drug related deaths that are NOT by overdose…the number would be doubled, and that is putting it mildly…PEACE

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    Annemarie Matulis

    January 5, 2016 at 12:40 PM

    And the early numbers for the number of suicides in 2014 is around 42,000. We have a major public health/mental health crisis on our hands. We’ll never know how many of the overdose deaths were intentional (suicide), but if we address both issues together, we may stand a better chance of saving lives.

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