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Total overdoses rose to 70,237 in 2017, compared to 63,632 in 2016. West Virginia had the highest opioid overdose death rates in the country back in 2017, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.  For both 2016 and 2017, nearly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths were associated with opioids, such as fentanyl and heroin. Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that can be up to 100x stronger than pure heroin. This drug started to appear in early 2015 and seemed to be everywhere within a short amount of time. The number of synthetic opioid-related fatal overdose cases rose by 45 percent from 2016 to 2017. Overall, synthetic opioids accounted for 60 percent of opioid-related fatal overdoses in 2017. 2017 was the worst year ever recorded for fatal overdoses in the United States, but it seems that we have finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. According to some of the most recent overdoses statistics released, the number of people who are losing their battle with addiction is finally on the decline. If the statistics released are correct, then this is the first time since 1990 that we have seen a decrease in overdose deaths in our country.

The overall decrease, which was reported by the Disease Control and Prevention Centers, indicates some potential relief from such a serious epidemic that it has reduced the country’s life expectancy. Even with the move, over 68,000 deaths in 2018 still surpassed the peak annual deaths of the nation from car crashes, HIV, and gun-related deaths. The decrease wasn’t very substantial, but it was still a decrease. Some experts think that the decline might just be a trend, while others believe we are through the worst of it.

A Light at the end of the Tunnel

One reason we have seen a decrease in fatal overdoses is that the prescribing of narcotic painkillers has declined. The combination of prescribing shifts that have reduced opioid medication supply along with a more conservative method of prescribing of opioid painkillers has helped create various restrictions that have been developed in many states over the past few years. Prescription painkillers were the leading cause of overdose deaths prior to heroin and fentanyl taking over. Many addiction and law enforcement professionals blame the current heroin and fentanyl epidemic on the overprescribing of prescription painkillers.

Many states have made naloxone much more easy to obtain. This life-saving drug can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose and has helped save countless lives. It has no effect on people who are not on opiates and it is not addictive in any way. States have made it mandatory that emergency responders carry this drug, some have even hosted classes to teach the public about the benefits of naloxone. Cities and towns have been hosting free naloxone training classes that are open to the public. In these classes, attendees will learn more about naloxone, the signs of addiction, the warning signs of an overdose, and how to administer the drug if they are present where an overdose is occurring. Some of these classes will even give the attendees a prescription for naloxone upon completing the training course.

There are Still Battles to Be Fought

While overall overdoses death rates are down throughout the United States, some substances have seen an increase in overdose-related deaths. There was a jump of approximately 21% regarding deaths involving methamphetamine. In 2017  there were 10,749 amphetamine-related overdoses in the country, but in 2018 that number jumped to 12,987. These statistics have officials at all levels of government interested and concerned. The main culprit is crystal meth, and this drug is in no way an opioid. Unlike opioid addiction, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs to treat meth addiction or to reverse the effects of an overdose.

The majority of the crystal meth that is being used in the US is coming from massive, factory-sized meth labs in Mexico. The days of small homemade meth labs is now a thing of the past. The meth being smuggled from Mexico is extremely potent and is becoming more and more deadly. Law enforcement officials have also seen meth is becoming more prevalent in areas such as the Northeast. 20 years ago meth was nearly nonexistent in states like New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, but now it is beginning to become more popular in these highly populated areas.

Finding a Detox or Rehab Center Near You

If you or someone you care about are currently struggling with substance abuse disorder and would like help, please contact our toll-free line at any time. Our phone lines are always open and an addiction specialist is standing by 24/7 to help you through this difficult time in any way that they can. Calls are free of charge and your conversation with the specialist is absolutely confidential. Whether you just have some basic questions regarding substance abuse or the signs of addiction, or if you need help locating a detox program; we are here to help.