According to the latest CDC report, US drug overdose deaths rose by close to 30% in 2020 — the highest number ever recorded.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a recent report detailing that more than 93,000 people died in 2020 of a drug overdose. These latest stats are almost 30% higher than 2019 and likely to be much lower than 2021. The newest CDC report sends a clear message that not enough is being done to combat rapid opioid overdose deaths and the broader opioid epidemic in this country. The DEA and other law enforcement officials across the county are warning the public to please be aware of the sharp increase in fatal overdoses related to the powerful, deadly drug fentanyl.
New CDC Report Highlights Troubling Trend in Opioid Overdose
Due to the nature of data collection and analysis, CDC figures on drug epidemics and other public health problems often lag months or years behind the present day. Now, with families across the United States looking for answers, the CDC released a report with the most up-to-date information about opioid overdose rates across the country.
Officials report that this sharp increase in lethal overdoses was driven by the deadly prevalence of fentanyl, pandemic-related stressors, and problems in accessing care. Although the opioid crisis has long been viewed as a problem predominantly in rural America, large metropolitan regions showed the most substantial increases in overdoses.
Ten states are particularly affected, showing over a 40% rise in overdose deaths:
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Overdose is responsible for approximately one-quarter as many deaths as the 375,000 from COVID-19 in 2020. Furthermore, around 57,000 overdose deaths in 2020 were from synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl).
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Clare Waismann, Administrative Director of the Waismann Method for Opioid Treatment, expressed grave concern about this continuous increase in overdoses.
“Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in the number of people overdosing on opioid drugs. Sometimes, even multiple times on the same day.”
Mrs. Waismann attributes the overdose increase to the lack of effective detoxification, available mental health assistance, and poor border control.
She continued, “The widespread use of Naloxone has helped save many lives by reversing an overdose. However, it is not a solution for opioid addiction. If people do not receive adequate treatment, they are likely to overdose again. Unless we provide accessible mental health care, effective drug treatment and a sharp increase in border control, the opioid crisis will continue to kill our citizens at tragic rates.”
The Effects of an Opioid Overdose on Families
The latest figures from the CDC highlight the slow response from public health officials to impact the opioid crisis meaningfully.
“The main driving force on the surge in overdoses is the increase of fentanyl on the drug supply,” said C. Waismann, a registered addiction specialist and substance use disorder counselor. “Most street drugs are laced with Fentanyl. This includes heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine to Xanax.”
Unfortunately, the report does not highlight how the public health response to the opioid crisis continues to fail. The rise in the sharp surge of overdoses has affected every region around the country. The opioid crisis is not an issue happening to a single area or type of person. Instead, it is a tragic crisis involving directly or indirectly every citizen in the country, a problem that will affect generations to come. Families must know that anyone, whether young or older, rich or poor, well-educated or less educated, and of any race or ethnic group, may suffer from opioid addiction.
The marked upswing of opioid overdoses in this country has taxed emergency resources, already overwhelmed by COVID patients, especially in the regions hit hardest by the crisis. It is encouraging the broader availability of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that immediately reverses an overdose because it has saved many lives.
“Unfortunately, the lack of effective treatment resources leads to a ‘revolving door’ problem in which a person overdoses, is taken to the emergency room, receives the care necessary to stabilize his or her medical condition and is discharged to free up space for other acutely ill patients.” Mrs. Waismann comments.
“Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are not being given the tools and resources to help these patients effectively. Once discharged, opioid users return to their former habits and look for drugs to feel better and numb their emotional pain. Although Naloxone may have saved their lives, it also rapidly induces withdrawal which may lower their tolerance. Premature discharge places the most vulnerable individuals at a higher chance for a second overdose, compounding their risk of death,” she continues.
ER Overdose Response
To adequately address the opioid crisis, emergency departments must change the way they operate. Rather than stabilizing the patient to prepare for a swift discharge, ER doctors could admit patients into a unit where they have the chance to receive real treatment. Once at this unit, a team of psychiatrists, therapists, and social workers would provide a comprehensive assessment. Also, a complete medical detox in a safe and supportive environment followed by mental health care.
“In addition to providing a solution instead of a temporary band-aid, this treatment approach can also save money. Rather than a costly revolving door of individuals overdosing multiple times, requiring multiple hospital visits. Affected individuals should get the care they need. They should receive medical detoxification and mental health care, so they can focus on maintaining sobriety.”
— C. Waismann
For those Struggling with Opioid Addiction
One thing is for sure — upholding the status quo no longer works. People are struggling with mental health issues and opioid addiction. Therefore, we as a society continue to suffer from inadequate public safety and health resources. Resources presently offered in emergency departments and other public health facilities lack quality, accessibility, and effectiveness.
This is an incredibly dark time in our society. Unfortunately, the media is choosing to turn a blind eye to a crisis that is taking a toll in this country with dreadful consequences. We must find a way to break this deadly cycle by providing genuine life-saving treatments and better border patrol. Additionaly, fentanyl continues to be distributed in every corner of our society at unimaginable rates while our citizens are dying. We need to do more, and we need to do much better in protecting our people.
Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Specialists have been speaking up and fighting for over two decades for those suffering from opioid use disorder and mental health illnesses. Although the center is at the forefront of providing advanced treatments for opioid detoxification, that is not all we do. Our mission is much broader. We want to change and better our citizens’ quality of health care, especially those struggling with addiction. Opioid use disorder is a severe medical condition, and simply telling someone to stop using or get over it won’t help the situation. This type of mindset lacks compassion and understanding of the condition.
There are no perfect answers for supporting a friend or loved one struggling with addiction. Although, there is much more that we, as a society, can do to save lives. Let’s make every life lost to fentanyl overdose count.
- CDC: Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts
- DEA: Law Enforcement Warns of Increase in Fentanyl Overdoses
Reviewed by Clare Waismann, Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS), Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor (SUDCC), founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence and Domus Retreat®. Clare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, detox recovery, and other topics covered on RapidDetox.com.