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Overdoses of drugs increase as the opioid crisis worsens

More Americans died in 2016 from overdoses of drugs than the number of Americans who died during the entire Vietnam War, and nearly two thirds of these deaths involved opioids

A new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention have shown that the number of opioid-related overdoses increased by almost 28 percent between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, 63,632 Americans died of overdose.

About two-thirds of these overdose deaths were caused by opioids, CDC said. Just under a third were caused by prescription opioids, a quarter by heroin, and about one third by synthetic synthetic opioids other than methadone – most of which were probably caused by fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid that is mainly produced in China.

The ongoing and worsening overdose epidemic requires immediate attention and action, "wrote CDC epidemiologists like Puja Seth, Lawrence Scholl, Rose Rudd, and Sarah Bacon.

The numbers show that America's epidemic is getting worse and worse suggests that a crisis that hit mostly white Americans in rural and exurban areas is now killing thousands of black and Hispanic Americans in urban settings.

Overdose deaths in major metropolitan areas spiked by more than a third The number of overdose deaths among whites rose by more than a quarter, and killed 33,450 in 201


In Washington, DC alone, the overdose The CDC data found that deaths doubled between 2015 and 2016. Opioid mortality rates are highest in West Virginia, where overdose ge kills 43 to 100,000 inhabitants. New Hampshire and Ohio had overdose rates north of 30 per 100,000 population, among the 31 states that reported their data to CDC.

"No territory in the United States is exempt from this epidemic," said Anne Schuchat, CDC's deputy director. "We all know a friend, a family member or a person devastated by opioids."

Opioid deaths have increased over 15 years in all age groups; among men and women; under each racial category; and in urban, suburban and rural communities alike.

Experts watching the overdose epidemic say the crisis is driven by two factors, none of which is included.

One is the increasing number of opioid prescriptions and the subsequent increase in heroin use among those who become addicted. This crisis began and continues to be found in rural areas, and especially among the whites.

The other is the later increase of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which can be much more deadly than prescription opioids. This crisis is the fastest growing threat; Overdoses of synthetic opioids, which CDC says are mainly derived from illegally produced fentanyl. Such deaths more than doubled between 2015 and 2016.

"We often talk about the epidemic epidemic as a single epidemic, but if you look at it, then there are actually two different epidemics that happen simultaneously," said Jon Zibbell, senior health scientist at the nonprofit RTI Foundation for Public Health, The Hill earlier this month. "In some states, prescription opioids have triggered the epidemic, while in other states, illegal opioids are driving the epidemic, and in some states it's both."

The CDC researchers described the crisis as three waves: The first wave began in The 1990s, when prescription opioids first came on the market. The second wave began in 2010 when heroin deaths increased. The third wave began in 2013 with the introduction of fentanyl and similar illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is so effective that thousands of cans can be shipped by mail in a single business-size envelope.

The Trump government has highlighted the opioid crisis several times, calling the fight against it a priority for the White House. The CDC finances state health efforts in 45 states, and most states have undertaken some reforms that either limit the size and length of prescriptions or target physicians and pharmacies that prescribe too many opioids.

"I think we're making good progress on the prescribing side of things," Zibbell said. "Where there's no end in sight, that's illegal stuff, heroin, but also fentanyl."

But there is little evidence that the crisis is waning. Earlier this month, CDC released data showing that the emergency department for suspected opioid overdoses increased by 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017, an indication that the number of overdoses continues to rise.

Rick Blondell, vice chair of addiction medicine at The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, said the opioid crisis is an epidemic of our own manufacturing. Prescription rates have skyrocketed, in part due to hospitals and doctors trying to treat chronic pain rather than the underlying symptoms.

"In the long term, it will take us 20 years to get out of the hole we've made," Blondell said. "Some aspects of [the crisis] are getting worse."

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