Opioid Overdoses Have More Than Doubled in a Decade
The number of people dying from opioid overdoses has more than doubled in a decade. However, the actual number of people treated for opioid overdoses almost tripled in the three years leading up to 2013.
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015 highlighted that the opioid overdose statistics claimed nearly four times as many lives in 2013 as it did in 2000.
However, more recent opioid overdose statistics from the CDC reveal that more than 33,000 opioid overdose deaths were recorded in 2015, more than any year on record. Of those deaths, more than half involved a prescription opioid painkiller medication.
Misconceptions about Opioid Drugs
When most people hear the opioid overdose statistics, they immediately form a stereotyped picture of what they consider heroin addicts to be. They either imagine waif-thin, dark-eyed junkie desperately trying to find cash to pay for their next ‘hit’, or they imagine unemployed, long-haired druggies injecting themselves with the drug in dank, abandoned buildings on the outskirts of a city.
What the vast majority of people don’t realize is that America’s opioid epidemic is largely linked to abuse of prescription opioid painkillers. Some of the most commonly abused prescription opioid medications include oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and methadone.
Opioid drug overdose statistics show that white people aged between 18 and 44 had the highest rate of heroin-related deaths of any group in America.
The number of opioid overdose deaths caused by prescription painkiller medications has more than quadrupled since 1999. In fact, the number of opioid overdose deaths caused by prescription drugs is higher than the number of deaths caused by overdosing on heroin and cocaine combined.
Opioid Gateway Drugs
There is evidence that a large number of heroin users developed their opiate addiction by first abusing prescription painkiller drugs. It’s common for many people to assume that taking prescription drugs will be safer than taking illicit street drugs, as they were prescribed by a doctor.
As a result, there is an increase in the number of people experimenting with painkiller drugs for recreational purposes. Continued abuse of narcotic analgesics increases the risk of developing tolerance, physical dependency and addiction to the substance.
Obtaining prescription opioid drugs on the black market is expensive. In an effort to continue fueling an opioid addiction, many users will turn to the cheaper and more readily available heroin.
Polydrug Use Increases the Risk of Opioid Overdoses
Studies show that almost all people who use heroin also admit to using at least one other drug. Using more than one type of drug in combination with another dramatically increases the risk of experiencing an opioid overdose.
Polydrug abuse is the term used when a person abuses more than one type of drug at the same time in order to achieve the desired effect. For example, some heroin users may simultaneously take cocaine, a combination known as a ‘speedball’.
The objective of a speedball is to enhance the rush, or euphoric feeling and counteract some of the negative effects either drug may produce. Cocaine cancels out the sedation caused by heroin, while the heroin counteracts the anxiety and paranoia caused by cocaine.
As heroin is a sedative/depressant and cocaine is a stimulant, the combination of the two drugs often makes users feel as though they are less intoxicated than they really are. In an effort to achieve a more intense ‘high’, some users will take higher doses. The result can lead to a delayed opioid overdose, the symptoms of which can be temporarily masked by the effects of cocaine.
Another common polydrug combination is heroin and benzodiazepine medications, such as Xanax (alprazolam) or Valium (diazepam). Benzodiazepine drugs and opioid drugs are both central nervous system sedatives, so it’s possible to increase the risk of accidental opioid overdose by using the drugs in combination with any other substance.
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.