Bay Area Recovery Center

Opioid Epidemic Reaching Crisis Levels Across the United States

Opiate Overdose Death Toll at an All Time High


Houston, TX -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/13/2017 --The number of deaths caused by overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids has reached record levels in recent years, driven by a sharp growth in the number of painkiller prescriptions written and the increasing accessibility of heroin from Mexican and Colombian sources. According to the CDC, more Americans die as a result of opioid abuse than from AIDS at the height of that epidemic in the 1990s, with more than 27,000 individuals overdosing on heroin and prescription opioids each year. 

The increase in deaths resulting from opioid abuse has been dramatic over the past several decades. Overall, deaths from drug overdose has rapidly risen since the late 1990s. The CDC reports that drug overdoses were the cause of approximately 40 percent more deaths than car crashes as of 2014; this represents a stark increase from 1999, when motor vehicle fatalities accounted for more than twice the number of American deaths as fatal overdoses of drugs. Moreover, the nature of drug addiction in the United States has changed. While cocaine was responsible for twice the number of fatal overdoses than heroin was in 1999, the CDC found that those numbers had reversed by 2014, with heroin and opioids together causing more than five times the number of deaths as cocaine.

Jake White, a director at Houston based Bay Area Recovery Center, likens America's opioid death toll to an aircraft disaster, saying, "The estimates given by the CDC are that anywhere from 90 to 120 people die from an opiate overdose in this country every day. That is the equivalent of a jumbo airliner going down and killing all passengers on board, every 3 to 4 days."

Mr. White correlates the death rate of opiate overdose with something sensational, like a plane crashing, because he believes that the problem of opioid addiction goes mostly ignored by the general population, saying, "Addiction is certainly the least understood problem on the planet, and I believe that is due, in part, to how misunderstood the solutions to addiction are. But there are indeed solutions for those looking to avoid becoming part of these staggering statistics."

A key factor in the dramatic surge in opioid and heroin use has been the rapid growth in painkiller prescriptions over the past two decades. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of prescriptions for pain medication written by doctors almost tripled between 1991 and 2011, from 76 million to 219 million. Incredibly, the CDC found that the number of opioid prescriptions exceeded the population number in 12 U.S. states as of 2014.

This rapid increase in the use of prescription opioids across the country has led many Americans to move on to heroin due to its lower cost, greater availability and higher potency than legal prescription drug alternatives. Indeed, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that Mexican heroin production grew by more than six times between 2005 and 2009.

Overall, the effects of this growth in prescription opioid and heroin abuse have hit almost every class of American across ages and races. Heroin deaths typically effect younger Americans more frequently, while opioid overdose hits middle-aged Americans more heavily; the CDC found the greatest rate of heroin overdose to be in the 25-34 year range, while more Americans between 45 and 54 overdosed on prescription opioids. Similarly, while white and Native Americans have seen the greatest increase in opioid overdoses in recent years--with a 267 percent increase in the number of fatal overdoses for white Americans and a 236 percent increase for Native Americans between 2010 and 2014 according to the CDC--black and Hispanic Americans have not been spared, with overdose rates more than doubling in the same time period. In short, the opioid epidemic has grown to affect every category of American in all 50 states.

About Bay Area Recovery Center
Bay Area Recovery Center is a Houston, Texas based network of drug and alcohol treatment facilities specializing in inpatient and outpatient chemical dependency treatment, medically assisted drug detox, intervention and counseling.