Why Are There So Many Opiate Overdose Deaths?

Opiate Overdose Deaths Have Quadrupled Since 1999, Learn about this terrible epidemic

Drug overdoses are responsible for more deaths of Americans under the age of 50 than any other cause. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opiate overdose deaths are on the rise.

The Opioids

Opioids are a specific class of drugs that act similarly in the brain. Some doctors refer to opioid pain medication as “heroin lite.” When taken as directed by a doctor, these medications can increase a person’s chances of getting “hooked” on heroin and becoming one of the drug overdose deaths. When the following opioids brand names are followed by ER, it refers to an extended release form of the medication. All of the drugs are legal except for heroin. Their legality does not lessen their addictive nature.

  • Codeine (only available in generic form) is often found in combination with other drugs, such as cough syrup or acetaminophen.
  • Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora) is a synthetic opioid. It is a painkiller that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
  • Hydrocodones (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER) is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from codeine.
  • Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin) is a combination drug used for moderate to severe pain.
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo) is a pain medication that must be monitored closely as it can cause life-threatening breathing problems soon after the first few doses.
  • Meperidine (Demerol) has a high risk for addiction. When combined with alcohol it can cause severe breathing issues and death.
  • Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose, Diskets) is used to treat heroin addiction. Very serious interactions can occur if alcohol is used when taking methadone.
  • Heroin (aka diamorphine) is illegal and used as a recreational drug. It is highly addictive and responsible for greatly increased opioid deaths in recent years.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

There is a prescription drug opioid deaths epidemic occurring. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “In 2014 more than 28,000 people died from opioid overdose.” At least half of the opiate overdose deaths involved the abuse of a prescription opioid. Heroin deaths are also increasing rapidly. Between 2010 and 2014 the number of heroin deaths tripled. There are signs of addiction you can look for in a family member or friend who is taking prescribe opiates or that you suspect of using illegal heroin. There are three types of opioid addiction signs, which are psychological and mood, behavioral, and physiological. An addicted person may exhibit several or more of these signs or symptoms.

  • Psychological signs include the continued using of the drug when the person knows it is creating a dependence. Other psychological symptoms include anxiety, inability to make decisions or create plans, poor judgment, confusion, and memory issues.
  • Behavioral signs and symptoms include knowingly taking opioids at higher doses than prescribed and buying pills from a dealer when prescription runs out. (The person often blames his or her doctor for not refilling their prescription.) Other signs include a person’s inability to meet their responsibilities on the job, with family, and in social settings. The addicted person will continue using the drug while knowing it is placing his or her job and family at risk. Alcohol is consumed while taking the drug in spite of the knowledge it can result in a drug overdose death.
  • Physiological signs include increased tolerance of the drug, cravings, sleepiness, itching, rashes, numbness (inability to feel pain), small pupils, shallow breathing, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech, constipation. Often times the addicted person keeps taking the drug to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

The White Sands Treatment Center in Fort Myers serves the surrounding area with professional drug abuse treatment programs. If you are concerned about a loved one or yourself, you can call and speak to a counselor to get all the information you need. Opioid deaths are increasing. Families are losing parents and children to drug overdose deaths daily.

If you live in the Fort Myers area, today is the day to contact White Sands Treatment Center. Your loved one’s life may be at stake.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.