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Opioid Crisis Continues to Get Worse: Overdoses Increase Nationwide

Opioid Crisis Continues to Get Worse: Overdoses Increase NationwideAuthor: Justin Mckibben

These days it is pretty much impossible to In case you missed it, the latest news concerning opioid overdoses in America is not good. Just this week a report was released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that only reminds us of just how horrific the opioid epidemic is. In most of the country, this crisis continues to get worse.

While we still don’t have a complete picture of the death toll in 2017 concerning opioids, the most up-to-date data shows that overdoses have spiked nationwide. Examining reports from hospital emergency rooms, the report compares the overall increase in opioid overdoses from the third quarter of 2016 up until the third quarter of 2017.

According to this data, opioid overdoses to increase by 30% in only a year.

Rising Overdose Rates by Region

In every age group, with both men and women, opioid overdoses are increasing, according to CDC Director Anne Schuchat. The Midwest has been the hardest hit region in that 12 month period. According to the CDC report:

  • 7% increase in opioid overdoses in the Midwest
  • 3% increase in the West
  • 3% increase in the Northeast
  • 2% increase in the Southwest
  • 14% increase in the Southeast

All this may not come as much of a surprise for many Midwesterners. When you look at the last few years, the opioid crisis has not been kind to these communities. Of the counties with the highest overdose death rates per capita over the last few years, we consistently find some of the top spots going to states like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Needless to say, these devastating figures aren’t exclusive to the Midwest. A few more examples include:

  • 109% increase of opioid overdose in Wisconsin
  • 105% increase in Delaware
  • 6% increase in Pennsylvania
  • 34% increase in Maine

Luckily, not all areas are experiencing record highs. Some states are actually fortunate enough to see a slight decrease in overdoses, including:

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island

Even in Kentucky, which has been a Midwestern state hit pretty hard over the years, the CDC analysis saw a 15% drop.

The CDC report does not specify as to why certain regions are experiencing overdoses differently, but one factor experts say has most likely played a key role is the availability of more potent opioids. The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been making its way onto the streets more and more over the last couple years, and supply of drugs like fentanyl has increased much faster in certain areas, which probably has a lot to do with the difference in overdose rates per region.

Analyzing Opioid Crisis

The recent report was meant to take a closer look at the opioid crisis by analyzing overdose reports in emergency rooms instead of opioid deaths like the CDC had previously focused on. CDC Director Anne Schuchat said these numbers lag behind the emergency room reports, and that the agency wanted “more timely information” to work with.

The data utilized for this analysis came from:

  • Approximately 90 million emergency room visits
  • Reports from July 2016 to September 2017
  • 52 jurisdictions in 45 states
  • 142,577 suspected opioid overdoses

That survey found an increase of 29.7% in opioid overdoses. The research also analyzed:

  • 45 million emergency department visits
  • Reports from July 2016 to September 2017
  • 16 States
  • 119,198 suspected opioid overdoses

This analysis shows a 34.5% increase during the same period, but those increases vary drastically from state to state.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of opinions on how to look at this mountain of information and see a way through it. But many experts are convinced that so far we have been failing those who are suffering the most.  Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, states:

“It is concerning that 20 years into this epidemic, it is still getting worse. The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing.”

Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum, is one of many voices who are advocating for a more compassionate and supportive system. Those like Nickel believe that the key element to changing the opioid crisis is better integration of addiction treatment into a more comprehensive and effective healthcare system. Some, including Nickel, believe even emergency room staff should be better prepared to help get follow-up addiction treatment for people with substance use disorder.

Addiction isn’t going away anytime soon, and perhaps one of the most tragic parts of the problem is that so many people never get the help they need. Too many are afraid to ask for help, and plenty more still don’t know how to get help. Providing safe and effective substance use disorder treatment isn’t just useful, but vital to our future. So taking advantage of these programs and supporting expanded access to addiction treatment should be at the forefront of the conversation if we hope to break this trend and save lives. If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. You are not alone.

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Drug Abuse by Region: Midwest

Drug Abuse by Region: Midwest

Here it is, another installment of Drug Abuse by Region. In the Midwest, the drug of choice is methamphetamine. This probably comes as no surprise to many, what with pop culture references making the Midwest notorious for its industry of meth labs. But there is a history lesson here, steeped in agriculture, economics, and politics that accounts for such a prevalence of meth in this region of the United States.

The methamphetamine panic really began to build by the mid-2000s. But, the events leading up to this epidemic began to unfold well before that.

Perhaps because of how easy it is to make – you can make meth out of readily available industrial and pharmaceutical products, a twenty-first-century version of moonshine was born.

Drug Abuse by Region: Midwest

The “Heartland”

What allowed meth to capture the public imagination so fully was the way in which it attacked the beliefs that Americans had about their beloved heartland: a picturesque landscape with an ideal wholesomeness of decency and morality. Perhaps one of the most shocking aspects of meth is its clientele: the same predominantly white small-town residents who had witnessed from a safe distance, the ravages of crack cocaine on the more urban areas of the country and who had told themselves that they weren’t that kind of people.

Drug Abuse by Region: Midwest

Manufacturing Meth

A crumbled local agricultural economy turned out to be a windfall. Falling tax revenues had left local law enforcement underfunded, understaffed, and unable to stop the growing manufacture a selling of meth. Hard-up fertilizer suppliers and farmers were happy to cut deals on large volumes of anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer ingredient that is also used in meth processing. And unlike other drugs, meth didn’t require contraband raw materials from South America or Southeast Asia.

Its most ‘exotic’ ingredient at the time, ephedrine, was also used to make cold medication – which meant that efforts by the DEA to place restrictions on its importation were routinely thwarted by the pharmaceutical lobby and its congressional champions, who guaranteed that ephedrine would remain free of federal regulation. Not since Prohibition had an illegal drug been so easy to make inconspicuously by anyone with a high school-grade knowledge of chemistry.

Drug Abuse by Region: Midwest

Meth: A Lesson in History

Meth, also called crystal meth, was not a new drug. It had first been manufactured by a Japanese chemist nearly a century earlier. It had only recently fallen from favor as a legal prescription narcotic, and was and has been a go-to by long-haul truckers to enable them to pull off inhuman stints without sleep in order to deliver their goods across the country. It was even advertised in women’s magazines to housewives as an aid for increasing their energy and overall perkiness, as well as prescribed to American GIs, during World War II. As the legal market for meth had diminished, however, an increasing illegal trade had emerged, built on a small group of professional suppliers in Southern California and a network of motorcycle gangs that distributed the drug elsewhere.

But it was Lori Kaye Arnold, the wife of a biker gang member and sister of comedian Tom Arnold, whose own innovations in the late ’80s transformed meth into a rural Midwestern phenomenon. After first setting up Ottumwa, Iowa as the premier heartland distribution hub for Californian meth, Arnold decided to borrow a page from Monsanto and better integrate her supply chain, building her own production facilities, which were to become the first Midwestern meth lab in Iowa.

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction or another addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. 










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