Opioid overdose-related deaths are a complicated and fast-growing epidemic in America. Approximately 115 people die from prescription or illegal opioid overdose each day. There was a five-fold increase in opioid deaths between 1999 and 2016, which claimed the lives of 350,000 Americans. Researchers attribute this dramatic increase in deaths to three distinct historical events. First, there was a significant increase in opioid prescriptions in the late 1990s, particularly in 1999 when natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone were prescribed. In 2010, heroin use increased dramatically, which coincided with the next rise in overdose deaths. Synthetic opioid use, particularly illegally manufactured fentanyl, which is often combined with heroin, marked the third historical increase in deaths, in 2013.
Medical professionals can help by working collaboratively with first responders, public safety officers, substance abuse specialists, and the community to raise awareness and maximize available resources to combat opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose.
AccessMedicine Resources to help you learn more:
“Opioid Overdose” in Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology, 10e
“Opioid-Related Disorders” in Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 19e
“Opiates and Opioids” in Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 7e