According to recent data published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, opioid overdoses—including both pain relievers and heroin—hit record levels in 2014 with an increase of 14 percent in the year alone. Nearly half a million Americans died from drug overdoses between the years 2000 and 2014, findings show.
The study details increases in both prescription opioid pain relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone as well as heroin—the biggest drivers of the drug overdose epidemic. Oxycodone and hydrocodone continue to be involved in more overdose fatalities than any other type of opioid with an increase of 9 percent (813 more deaths than the previous year) and heroin-related death rates increased 26 percent. Triple the rate in 2010.
“To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a press statement. “This report shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids.”
The CDC says four things must be done in order to curb the high rate of overdose deaths:
- Give healthcare professionals additional tools and information—including safer guidelines for prescribing these drugs—to aid more informed prescription decisions;
- Expand access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment—including medication-assisted therapy—for those with opioid use disorder;
- Expand access and use of naloxone; and
- Increase collaboration between state and local public health agencies, medical examiners and coroners, and law enforcement agencies in order to improve detection of and response of overdose outbreaks.