The alarming surge in drug overdoses cannot be ignored when the United States grapples with the highest overall death rates in over a century.
A study spearheaded by experts at Florida Atlantic University has brought to light the harrowing increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S.
The data reveals a staggering 4.4-fold spike in these deaths from 1999 to 2020. To put it into perspective, the rate of overdose deaths was 6.9 per 100,000 in 1999, which escalated to an alarming 30 per 100,000 by 2020, more than quadrupling within this period.
The roots of this crisis can be traced back to the 1980s when the World Health Organization declared pain treatment as a universal right.
This led to the development of guidelines that encouraged the use of opioids for managing pain in diseases like cancer. Consequently, the approval of OxyContin, a highly addictive opioid, marked the beginning of widespread prescription and subsequent abuse of opioids.
Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin, is currently facing a barrage of lawsuits and hefty fines for allegedly misleading the public and government officials about the addictive properties of the drug, pushing them to the brink of bankruptcy.
White Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Americans have witnessed the most significant spikes in overdose deaths. Moreover, the Midwest and rural areas are bearing the brunt of this crisis more than other regions.
Interestingly, Florida saw a decrease in these hotspots from 2011 to 2016, thanks to stringent restrictions on opioid prescriptions.
There has been a significant increase in overdose deaths involving a combination of fentanyl and stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
This synthetic opioid, which is exponentially more potent than heroin and morphine, has become a major contributor to drug overdoses, particularly in its illicit forms available on the streets.
In 2021, a staggering 90% of approximately 80,000 opioid-linked fatalities were attributed to fentanyl, as data from federal agencies indicated.
The majority of the fentanyl found in the U.S. is transported across the southern border, predominantly by American citizens driving vehicles.
Mexican cartels and other unlawful organizations have clandestinely transformed the production of this synthetic opioid into a thriving industry, establishing it as the leading supplier of fentanyl in the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).