Drug Overdose Deaths May Peak in 2017: Study

Bottle full of medicine

Drug overdose deaths may peak in 2017, experts at Columbia University predict. By 2034 the overdose rate could fall back to rates last seen in the early 1980s, they say.

The experts predict the projected drug overdose death rate will peak in 2017 at 16.1 deaths per 100,000 population, The Wall Street Journal reports. They note that from 1980–2011, annual drug overdose deaths increased from 2.7 to 13.2 deaths per 100,000 population. In 2035, the death rate would reach 1.9 deaths per 100,000 population, the researchers write in Injury Epidemiology.

The Columbia professors made the predictions based on a theory called Farr’s Law, which states that an epidemic usually follows a symmetrical curve that rises before subsiding. The curve has been applied to mapping the AIDS epidemic, smallpox outbreaks and cattle disease, with mixed results, the authors say.

They note that when access to prescription medication becomes more difficult with enforcement of prescription drug monitoring programs, there is a danger that people will shift to alternative substances such as heroin. “To avoid this substitution effect would require multifaceted interventions such as the expansion of prescription limits, increased drug screening, requiring pain contracts, and the distribution of naloxone to first responders,” they wrote.

If the overdose epidemic does decrease as they predict, it will add to evidence that efforts such as enhanced prescription drug monitoring are working and should be continued, they noted.

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    joe b

    April 10, 2017 at 11:21 AM

    lighten up tom. it’s just a prediction.

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    January 22, 2016 at 4:20 PM

    How much will abuse of prescription drugs increase in 2017

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    tom welther

    December 29, 2015 at 3:40 PM

    The theorem being used is for epidemics started by bacteria or viruses, not by societal destruction based on unraveling families, promotion of violence through media, societal agencies, economic and political agents. The end result is rapidly increasing alienation at every level of society. Alienation is at the root of addiction. These professors involved in the studies are just padding their resumes, which is standard practice in academia where publishing records determine the professional survival of professors. Thus, anything publishable, whether there is any real life connection to it or not, will be published.

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    Jim Recktenwald

    January 13, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    When the next gengeration of young users begins to emerge on the scene, it will again expand the death rate beyond the projected levels. While overdose is frightening to those who experience it, it remains an esoteric event to the person who experiences it. Persons with addiction “learn” poorly from negative impacts unless they are “schooled” to learn from them (consider changes in DUI related deaths, following the implementation of mandatory education for DUI). We have no such programs for AI currently, and the effect of a short stay in jail is negligible. Many DUI offenders have multiple AIs following the loss of their license, and the DUI training does little to stop that behavior. Unfortunately, it is too soon to hope that the sheer number of deaths in this drug using generation will inform the next about the dangers of drug use without any sort of focused education to attempt preventing the behavior.

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    Deirdre D Forbes

    January 8, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    To simplify a complex theoretical idea related to epidemics not of the social /behavioral kind, with hyperbolic headlines reminds me of my own youth when we were told psychedelic drugs will in the future cause such birth defects as to be unspeakable and uncountable. Like a fire and brimstone preacher. You are doing a disservice to your readers by digesting this story into something so small it becomes trivial and misleading to say the least

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