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Are Opioid Overdose Death Rates Actually Much Worse Than We Think?

Are Opioid Overdose Death Rates Actually Much Worse Than We Think?

Author: Justin Mckibben

It hasn’t even been one week since I wrote about the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting opioid overdoses increased by 30% in only one year, and already a new story from The Washington Post suggests that these numbers are actually being highly undercounted! So in reality, the increase could be skewed by the fact that the real rates of overdose deaths are tragically misrepresented.

This new study reveals that the government has actually been undercounting opioid overdose deaths by anywhere between 20% and 35%!

So how is this happening? How much worse is the overdose outbreak?

A Closer Look at Coroner Reports

The reason the study says this underreporting is happening is due to how the current numbers are actually determined. In order to estimate national trends in opioid overdose and opioid-related death, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amasses data from over 3,000 coroner’s offices across the US.

However, the issue is that coroners function independently, so their available resources vary from case to case. The same goes for their reporting practices.

Christopher Ruhm, a professor at the University of Virginia, took a closer look at tracking trends and found that a lot of coroners do not specify the drug when documenting a fatal overdose. Ruhma states that from 1999-2015, of all fatal overdoses 23.1% did not have a drug specified on the death certificate.

The CDC cannot control local coroners, so it is the states and counties responsibility to improve their overdose reporting practices. If we want a more accurate reading of how opioids are harming a community, there has to be efficient documentation.

Unfortunately, the political incentives are not very supportive of accurate reporting. Officials may be concerned that by spending money on better overdose recording, they will have paid for the chance to look like their opioid problem is actually getting worse. The incentive just isn’t there from a political stance. However, that isn’t a good enough reason to botch the records. Communities still deserve to have a comprehensive idea of the issues they are facing.

Tracking Overdose Death Trends

The inference of coroners not including the drug in the report is that there are a lot more overdoses that do not get included in the official figures released at the federal level. There could be thousands of more deaths from opioids that go unaccounted for. To take a shot at tracking trends, Ruhm studied the records of coroners who did record specific drugs for overdose deaths. Based on this tracking, he was able to attribute a “corrected count” of opioid overdoses. In his report, Ruhm states:

“Corrected rates were obtained by using information from death certificate reports where at least one drug category was specified to impute involvement for cases where none was specified.”

There are many elements to how Ruhm came up with her corrections, and I encourage everyone to read the full analysis, which is published by the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA). The report makes some pretty intense claims about what overdose deaths opioids should account for. For example in 1999 the CDC figures show:

Yet, Ruhm’s corrected count shows 1999 saw:

  • 10,232 overall opioid deaths
  • 3,421 synthetic opioid deaths

In 2015, the CDC figures say:

  • 33,091 overall opioid deaths
  • 19,884 synthetic opioid deaths

But Ruhms count pushes that up to:

  • 39,999 overall opioid deaths
  • 23,857 synthetic opioid deaths

Finally, when we look at the 2016 CDC figure, it said 42,249 opioid overdose deaths nationwide. But the corrected count figure puts 2016 at 49,562 opioid overdose deaths nationwide

What we can take away from Ruhm’s research is simply that the severity of the opioid crisis is being underestimated. From 1999-2015, Ruhm’s corrected counts for overdose deaths were 21% to 35% higher for all opioids. With corrected counts involving heroin and synthetic opioids were 20% to 30% higher.

So when we look at these stats, even if we leave some room for calculation errors, it is still a troubling thought. Since 2009, the leading cause of injury-related death in America has been drug overdoses. For years now, opioids have been public enemy number one concerning drug policy. Everything from prescription painkillers to synthetics being shipped halfway across the world has contributed to this crisis. If all we know about the true devastation of this epidemic is merely our best guess that still doesn’t take it all in, now is truly the time to urge officials and community leaders to take significant steps toward real, lifesaving solutions.

One of the most important resources that we need to take advantage of is providing safe and effective treatment to those who are struggling. Palm Partners Recovery Center has offered innovative and holistic treatment options for over two decades. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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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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What Were the Drug and Alcohol Death Rates in Your State?

What Were the Drug and Alcohol Death Rates in Your State?

Author: Justin Mckibben

A reality that is undeniable in this world is that somewhere on the planet, someone passes away every day. It is completely possible statistically that while you are reading this, someone is taking their last breaths. It is part of the process; the circle of life. Nobody lives forever. Yet, one tragic truth we have today is that so many are dying because of something as insidious as addiction. Right now, somewhere someone is dying from a drug overdose.

In all reality, several people just like you and I will die of a drug overdose, or a related illness or incident, today. As death rates due to opioid overdose death escalate higher than ever before, we find that drugs and alcohol are the most lethal threat facing Americans.

Last year we did an article providing overdose death rates for each state. So with that in mind, we took the time to provide some perspective by giving you the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, as far as an entire year’s worth of statistics for drug and alcohol induced deaths.

What do you think is your states statistic? Where does your state fall on the scale of highest to lowest?

The following information is in regards to 2015, and the population figures for year 2015 are bridged-race estimates of the July 1 resident population, from the Vintage 2015 postcensal series released by NCHS on June 28, 2016.

California

  • Drug deaths- 5,025
  • Alcohol deaths- 5,150
  • Total- 10,175

Florida

  • Drug deaths- 3,377
  • Alcohol deaths- 2,489
  • Total- 5,866

Texas

  • Drug deaths- 2,732
  • Alcohol deaths- 2,073
  • Total- 4,805

New York

  • Drug deaths- 3,009
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,479
  • Total- 4,488

Ohio

  • Drug deaths- 3,418
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,027
  • Total- 4,445

Pennsylvania

  • Drug deaths- 3,376
  • Alcohol deaths- 879
  • Total- 4,255

Michigan

  • Drug deaths- 2,316
  • Alcohol deaths- 985
  • Total- 3,301

Illinois

  • Drug deaths- 1,872
  • Alcohol deaths- 946
  • Total- 2,818

Arizona

  • Drug deaths- 1,351
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,277
  • Total- 2,628

North Carolina

  • Drug deaths- 1,636
  • Alcohol deaths- 915
  • Total- 2,551

Massachusetts

  • Drug deaths- 1,851
  • Alcohol deaths- 633
  • Total- 2,484

Washington

  • Drug deaths- 1,189
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,100
  • Total- 2,289

Tennessee

  • Drug deaths- 1,546
  • Alcohol deaths- 637
  • Total- 2,183

Georgia

  • Drug deaths- 1,370
  • Alcohol deaths- 726
  • Total- 2,096

New Jersey

  • Drug deaths- 1,506
  • Alcohol deaths- 527
  • Total- 2,033

Indiana

  • Drug deaths- 1,310
  • Alcohol deaths- 689
  • Total- 1,999

Kentucky

  • Drug deaths- 1,331
  • Alcohol deaths- 466
  • Total- 1,798

Colorado

  • Drug deaths- 893
  • Alcohol deaths- 857
  • Total- 1,750

Virginia

  • Drug deaths- 1,070
  • Alcohol deaths- 655
  • Total- 1,725

Maryland

  • Drug deaths- 1,320
  • Alcohol deaths- 301
  • Total- 1,621

Missouri

  • Drug deaths- 1,098
  • Alcohol deaths- 512
  • Total- 1,610

Wisconsin

  • Drug deaths- 894
  • Alcohol deaths- 638
  • Total- 1,532

Oregon

  • Drug deaths- 609
  • Alcohol deaths- 896
  • Total- 1,505

Louisiana

  • Drug deaths- 901
  • Alcohol deaths- 388
  • Total- 1,289

South Carolina

  • Drug deaths- 793
  • Alcohol deaths- 495
  • Total- 1,288

Oklahoma

  • Drug deaths- 751
  • Alcohol deaths- 530
  • Total- 1,281

Minnesota

  • Drug deaths- 653
  • Alcohol deaths- 599
  • Total- 1,252

New Mexico

  • Drug deaths- 516
  • Alcohol deaths- 656
  • Total- 1,172

Connecticut

  • Drug deaths- 827
  • Alcohol deaths- 341
  • Total- 1,168

Alabama

  • Drug deaths- 810
  • Alcohol deaths- 316
  • Total- 1,126

Nevada

  • Drug deaths- 629
  • Alcohol deaths- 433
  • Total- 1,062

West Virginia

  • Drug deaths- 750
  • Alcohol deaths-193
  • Total- 943

Utah

  • Drug deaths- 667
  • Alcohol deaths- 266
  • Total- 933

Iowa

  • Drug deaths- 332
  • Alcohol deaths- 344
  • Total- 676

Arkansas

  • Drug deaths- 425
  • Alcohol deaths- 242
  • Total- 667

Kansas

  • Drug deaths- 349
  • Alcohol deaths- 278
  • Total- 627

New Hampshire

  • Drug deaths- 433
  • Alcohol deaths- 173
  • Total- 606

Mississippi

  • Drug deaths- 369
  • Alcohol deaths- 175
  • Total- 544

Maine

  • Drug deaths- 278
  • Alcohol deaths- 194
  • Total- 472

Rhode Island

  • Drug deaths- 318
  • Alcohol deaths- 146
  • Total- 464

Idaho

  • Drug deaths- 224
  • Alcohol deaths- 240
  • Total- 464

Nebraska

  • Drug deaths- 139
  • Alcohol deaths- 199
  • Total- 338

Montana

  • Drug deaths- 152
  • Alcohol deaths- 194
  • Total- 346

Alaska

  • Drug deaths- 127
  • Alcohol deaths- 161
  • Total- 288

Delaware

  • Drug deaths- 208
  • Alcohol deaths- 80
  • Total- 288

Hawaii

  • Drug deaths- 175
  • Alcohol deaths- 95
  • Total- 270

Wyoming

  • Drug deaths- 99
  • Alcohol deaths- 152
  • Total- 251

South Dakota

  • Drug deaths- 72
  • Alcohol deaths- 152
  • Total- 224

District of Columbia

  • Drug deaths- 130
  • Alcohol deaths- 80
  • Total- 210

Vermont

  • Drug deaths- 111
  • Alcohol deaths- 96
  • Total- 207

North Dakota

  • Drug deaths- 65
  • Alcohol deaths- 96
  • Total- 161

The total drug related deaths in America- 55,403

Total alcohol related deaths in America- 33,171

Then the total combined (Drug/Alcohol) deaths in America- 88,574

Analyzing the Data of Deaths

Again, these are the CDC’s statistics from 2015; the most recent comprehensive data they can provide. The year 2016 saw some of the most damaging spikes of overdose rates in some cities. Some reports show 2016 to have the highest rates of drug addiction in the history of America. So if we look at the numbers for 2015, it is truly heartbreaking that in all likelihood well over the 88,574 people who died in 2015 lost their lives in 2016.

Some states have seen a huge jump in drug related death. My home-state of Ohio saw 3,778 in 2014, putting them at 3rd highest rate of drug/alcohol-related deaths. That grew to 4,445 in 2015; an increase of 667 people. California held onto the 1st spot on the top highest with 9,562 in 2014, which shot up to 10,175 in 2015; an increase of 613 people.

Oklahoma actually saw a decline in drug-related deaths,  bringing their total drug/alcohol-related deaths down from 1,348 in 2014 to 1,281 in 2015. But they did see an increase is alcohol-related deaths. Mississippi also saw a slight dip from 548 total to 544.

But while some were more intense shifts than others, besides Oklahoma and Mississippi, drug/alcohol-related deaths increased across the board.

Conclusion

What can we take from this? Well, quite simply, that we need to be aware of the true threat that substance abuse poses to our future. If we can expect based on headlines over the year that 2016 was much worse, we need to ask where we are heading. What is being done to change our direction?

We can also conclude that substance abuse an addiction is not limited to any geographic or demographic. It is a very real epidemic. For more detailed information you can visit the CDC’s site and pull up a variety of statistics.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is stopping so many people from living out their lives and giving to the world. But true recovery is possible. We have the power to change these statistics. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva 

There has been an influx of media attention on the heroin and painkiller epidemic which is now at record numbers. The focus in the media has been on the rise in overdose fatalities from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdoses have more than tripled in the last decade and the numbers continues to rise at alarming rates. While raising awareness of the opioid epidemic is necessary and much needed, we still cannot take our attention away from the drug killing Americans the most: alcohol.

The biggest threat to Americans remains to be alcohol. Americans are dying from alcohol abuse at numbers that exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 35 years. The CDC estimates that in just the last year, over 30,700 people died from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver.

In a little over a decade, the number of Americans who have died from alcohol have risen by 37 percent.  In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from painkillers and heroin combined, says the CDC.

If you think these numbers are high due to alcohol-related accidents, you are wrong. These numbers do not even include deaths caused by alcohol like drunken driving incidences, and murders committed under the influence. If we were to count those deaths, the death toll would be up to 90,000.

Why do these numbers continue to climb? Researchers conclude it is simply because Americans are drinking more. The statistics prove this conclusion:

  • Americans who drink at least once a month rose from 54.9% to 56.9%.
  • 51.9% of women reported drinking at least monthly in 2014, up from 47.9% in 2002.
  • Binge drinking by women is up to 17.4% from 15.7% in 2002.

All in all, binge drinking is the major culprit. People who drink the most are at the highest risk for alcohol-related death. According to past research by Cook, the top 10% of American drinkers consume close to 74 drinks a week on average. Drinking at this rate is linked to a range of health complications, including cirrhosis, cancer, brain damage, drunk driving and other accident fatalities.

For more moderate drinkers, the health effects of alcohol remain less clear. The research and data from moderate drinking has been all over the place. Some data suggests moderate alcohol consumption; around one-to-two drinks per day may actually be healthy.

However, there is a gray line when it comes to moderate to harmful drinking. A recent study revealed that when used alone, alcohol was the deadliest recreational substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. For this reason, many are urging public health officials to shift focus away from the dangers of drugs like pot and LSD and focus more on educating people about the dangers of drinking.

Alcohol is a dangerous substance that when used in excess, can cause serious health consequences.  However, since alcohol remains more accessible than any other drug, it increases the risk of abuse. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and has played a role in our culture for so long that many do not even realize they have a problem until it is too late.

Alcoholism is a serious disease and if you feel your drinking is getting out of control, do not wait to be a statistic, get treatment today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Would Lowering the Drinking Age Increase High School Dropout Rates?

Would Lowering Drinking Age Increase High School Dropout Rates?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Could lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 lead to increasing the high school dropout rate? A new study believes so. The study first published in the latest issue of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, examined dropout rates before the minimum drinking age was raised to 21 in 1984. Researchers discovered that 17-year-olds were affected by their 18-year-old peers because allowing 18 year old students in high school to have access to alcohol increased the chances that younger students would drink.

The lead author, Andrew Plunk observed that there was a 3% jump in dropout rates when the drinking age was 18. He also noted that “At-risk” groups like African Americans and Latinos had a 4% increase in dropout rates. Even more staggering, the dropout rate jumped by 40% for students whose parents had a drinking problem.

With 3.3 million teenagers expected to graduate from high school this year, a 3% jump in dropouts would amount to an additional 99,000 dropouts across the country. In a news release, Plunk stated:

“The minimum legal drinking age changes how easy it is for a young person to get alcohol. In places where it was lowered to 18, it’s likely that more high school students were able to get alcohol from their friends … if we lower the drinking age, it suggests to me that we’d see this same dropout phenomenon again.”

Despite the research, many colleges and even certain states have spoken in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18. Back in 2008, over 120 college chancellors and presidents signed a petition in favor of the idea.

Some states have come up with more creative solutions. Alaska introduce a bill in 2011 to allow active military member to drink at age 18 on the basis that if you’re old enough to serve in the military and die for your country, you’re old enough to drink.

Of course, there are a number of external environmental factors that might affect the connection between dropout rates and lowering drinking age. Despite that, Plunk still believes that a reduced drinking age could have an impact on minors. He states that laws need to remain in place to protect people are 15, 16, and 17 years old most vulnerable.

Next, we have to consider other countries that have a lower drinking age. Like me, you might be arguing that countries in Europe tend to have lower drinking ages and do just fine with them. Apparently, that’s a myth.  Plunk says that previous, separate research has revealed that European you do in fact have their share of alcohol problems.

So what about Europe? The US is always compared to Europe and we’re told that men and women have their first drink at an early age and develop a healthier relationship with alcohol. Well, according to Plunk, that’s a myth that won’t die. Plunk responded to the question posed by Medical Daily in an email. He said that previous, separate research has shown European youth do have their share of alcohol-related problems.

“For example, in 1990, France and Italy had higher per capita alcohol consumption and higher rates of cirrhosis deaths than in the U.S. Per capita consumption in France and Italy was 12.7 and 8.7 liters of alcohol, respectively, compared with 7.5 in the U.S.,” Plunk cited. “Cirrhosis death rates in France and Italy were 26.8 and 17 per 100,000, respectively, whereas the U.S. rate was 11.6. European countries are now looking to the U.S. for research and experience regarding the [drinking] age policy.”

Truthfully, more research is needed to be done to understand the true problems underage drinking could have on a country. When it comes to protecting youths from the harmful dangers of alcohol misuse, the CDC says that it will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of you and decrease youth access to alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is unhealthy no matter what age you are though. Don’t let your alcoholism turn your life around. Get help for your addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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