World Bulletin / News Desk
More Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015 than any previous year since the federal government began recording the statistics, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed.
A total of 52,404 people died from drug or alcohol overdoses in 2015, an 11 percent increase from 2014. The unprecedented amount trumped the number of people who died in vehicle accidents, which came to 37,757.
Heroin and other opioids are fueling the current overdose epidemic. Nearly 13,000 people perished from heroin overdoses, a 23 percent uptick from last year. Synthetic opioids, like the painkiller fentanyl, killed almost 9,600 people, a 73 percent surge. While overdoses from prescription opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin rose only 4 percent, they are, by a large margin, the deadliest drugs and killed 17,536 Americans in 2015.
The statistics are grim and federal solutions to curb opioid abuse, like requesting doctors be more mindful when describing painkillers, do not appear to have an immediate effect.
“The epidemic of deaths involving opioids continues to worsen,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems. We need to drastically improve both the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorders.”
Overdose deaths in the United States have increased 137 percent since 2000. The data also shows that drug use has largely migrated from the cities to rural areas. Largely rural states like New Mexico, West Virginia and Maine were among those with the most overdose deaths per 100,000 residents.
Earlier this year, the CDC released guidance regarding how primary doctors should prescribe opioids to patients suffering from chronic pain. Around 300 medical, nursing and pharmacy schools have agreed to teach the guidelines, the first ever released by the CDC regarding opioid prescriptions.