Florida: Among States with the Highest Toll from Opioids
“Every eight minutes someone dies from a drug overdose. Most of the time it’s from an opioid, like heroin or illicit fentanyl, but also opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone – the ones prescribed by doctors.” This is how Dr. Sanjay Gupta started the video that accompanied CNN’s news brief on “These states have been hit the hardest by America’s opioid epidemic.”
Dr. Gupta went on to explain how taking too much of these opioids can be fatal. Although they dull pain and boost dopamine, they come with a downside. Make that “many downsides.” That’s because the body builds up a tolerance to opioids and, as a result, users need increasingly higher doses to achieve the same effects. What’s more, habitual users become dependent on them because they override the amount of these substances that the body naturally produces on its own. Ergo, if you suddenly stop taking opioids, you may go into withdrawal.
Prolonged use of high doses of opioids is the making of a vicious cycle. The more you take, they more you need. The more you take and need, the higher the risk becomes for overdosing. On that last note, Dr. Gupta ends his video clip by saying: “More Americans now die from opioids than from guns.”
Other sources weighed in on this crisis too. A recent study that addresses the high mortality rates from opioids from 1999 to 2016 is a case in point. The postdoctoral fellow who led this research, which was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, summed up the findings succinctly. He reported: “We found that, in general, mortality is skyrocketing.”
What led this researcher and his team to come to that conclusion? The details are telling.
For raw information, they turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census. They worked with this data to identify the number of opioid-related deaths over the 18-year study period. The total came to 351,630 mortalities; that, in turn, represented an increase of 455% over this time. As for the gender breakdown, men died, on average, at age 39.8; women expired at 43.5 years.
What’s even more stunning is the declaimer the researchers added. They noted the number of deaths from opioids likely is underreported. The deaths from synthetic opioids is at issue here.
Pinpointing them is not a simple step; it requires additional testing by a medical examiner.
Geographical Spread, Including Florida
As alluded to directly above, not all opioids are the same. By way of background, synthetic opioids are manmade. Fentanyl is one example of a drug that falls into the category of synthetic opioids. There also other kinds of opioids. Semi-synthetic opioids is one of them; hydrocodone and oxycodone are in this bucket. There are natural opioids as well, which include codeine and morphine.
Opioids differ. So too do areas of the country in how they have fared in the opioid crisis. In eight states – Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Ohio – opioid-related deaths at least doubled every three years. Take special note here: three had rates that at least doubled every two years. Those states/jurisdictions are Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The other in this triad is Florida.
“To talk about solutions, you have to frame the problem the right way,” suggests the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University. That entails viewing the opioid crisis not as an overdose epidemic, but as an addiction epidemic.
The leader of the reference study agrees. “We need to make treatment at least as accessible, available and affordable as heroin,” he stated. And he added: “It shouldn’t be harder to get help than it is to get heroin.”
Recovery First Is Here to Help
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