The opioid crisis in the United States has grown by geometric proportions to the point that Americans are now more likely to die of an overdose than in a vehicle crash. But what does that really mean? Death by opioids is now a the top-five cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
|1. Heart Disease||1 in 6|
|2. Cancer||1 in 7|
|3. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease||1 in 27|
|4. Suicide||1 in 88|
|5. Opioid overdose||1 in 96|
|6. Motor Vehicle Crash||1 in 103|
An Influx of Illegal Fentanyl Led Us to the Tipping Point.
Opioids began moving up fast on the “NSC Top-5” several years ago. But the Safety Council’s report of 2017 was the first year in which accidental opioid deaths surpassed the number of those caused by vehicle crashes. On an international front, opioid overdoses surpassed vehicle crash deaths much earlier than 2017, but only because foreign government and non-government safety organizations count vehicle crashes as suicides. Overdoses of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, have been driving that increase, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
“Something that was a nonissue 30 years ago now looms as this incredible monster of a problem,” according to Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council, who administered the research and publishing of the NSC’s report.
As to why the opioid crisis seemed to suddenly descended on American society, Kolosh says, “We tend to fixate or focus on the rare, startling event, like a plane crash or a major flood or a natural disaster. But in reality, when you look at the numbers, the everyday risks that we face and have become so accustomed to, form a much greater hazard.”
This opioid epidemic began almost 30 years ago, when pharmaceutical marketing and lobbying created greater demand among patients. This in turn led doctors to prescribe far more opioid painkillers. There followed the noticeable rise of overdose deaths and a more profound thread of addiction which spun out of control from legitimate pain management, as more people misused, stole, bought, or borrowed painkillers from people other than their doctors.
The current wave of drug overdoses began when heroin became so cheap it flooded the illicit market; and dealers gladly targeted this new group of opioid addicts because they had lost their normal access to the drug or wanted a better (and cheaper) high. This has produced a more sinister “third wave,” Fentanyl. It’s a much more potent, cheaper, and deadlier alternative to heroin.
Kentucky is a Microcosm of Today’s Opioid Epidemic
Kentucky is among the top ten states with the highest opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In 2016, 989 opioid-related overdose deaths were reported in the state to the NIDA, a rate of 23.6 deaths per 100,000 persons, which was nearly double the national rate. And since 2012 overdose deaths from heroin have more than doubled, from 143 to 311. Synthetic opioid deaths have jumped more than six-fold, from 70 to 465.
The opioid epidemic ruins lives and tears families apart. If you are a victim of opioid addiction, we at the Billy Johnson Law Firm in Pikeville can help you find out if a doctor or pharmacist breached the medical standard of care owed to you (or a loved one), through over-prescription. We’ll help you hold them liable for the part they played in your addiction and the harm you and your family have suffered. Reach out to us at either the telephone number listed on this web page or through its “contact us” feature to arrange your free case evaluation.