While there has been a great deal of focus this year on the opioid epidemic that is currently killing off the average U.S. citizen at a rate higher than war, new federal data shows that a growing number of other drugs, both illicit and prescription, are also contributing to the widespread surge in overdose deaths across the nation.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention together with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently published a new report, which attempts to capture a glimpse of the terminal nature of the American drug fiend by riffling through the details contained in death certificates.
What they found was that even as the heroin and prescription painkiller problem continues to be one of the country’s leading causes of death, cocaine and the prescription anti-anxiety medication known as Xanax is also putting people in an early grave.
In fact, while cocaine does not seem to get much attention these days, taking a backseat to all of the news surrounding opioids and the legalization of marijuana, the substance is actually the number two cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States—surpassing Fentanyl’s annual death toll by around 1,656 people.
Overall, the report shows a 23 percent increase in drug overdose deaths between the years of 2010 and 2014. Sadly, this means there are now around 50,000 people who die every year in the United States as a result of their lust for dangerous drugs, like heroin, oxycodone and methamphetamine.
The majority of this increase has been, without a doubt, brought on by the caviler attitude that seems to be sweeping the nation in respect to the use of heroin. What was once a drug primarily witnessed in places like New York City and Los Angeles has now become increasingly more widespread in the Midwest, putting junkie horrors into the veins of rural America and killing off those who succumb to its grip.
Last year, the report shows that 33,091 of the more than 52,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were caused by opioids, which includes kills brought on by heroin and prescription painkillers.
Although Congress recently passed a bill intended to pour $1 billion into a scheme to control the opioid epidemic, there are some who say the move, which, in part, expedites the government’s drug approval process, will only make the situation worse.
Regardless of how much cash is thrown at the problem, medical experts say education is the best method for preventing the issue from continuing to spiral out of control.
“Education is the foremost strategy,” said Dr. Adam Kaye, a professor of pharmacy at the University of the Pacific. “We must educate primary care providers, surgeons, pharmacists, and other health professionals, as well as patients. That education must take place prior to the starting point of opioid therapy—and it needs to be independent of the pharmaceutical industry.”
Not surprisingly, federal health officials still haven’t been able to drum up any casualties as a result of a marijuana overdose. Yet, the herb, which has been legalized in over half the nation for recreational and medical purposes, remains outlawed by the government in the interest of public health and safety.
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