Opioid Overdose Is Now Deadlier Than Cars In The U.S.
Is a prescription from your doctor more dangerous than driving to work? A recent report on mortality data from the National Safety Council has been interpreted by many to mean that Opioids are now deadlier than cars. As of 2017, more Americans are dying from Opioid overdoses than from fatal car accidents–a first in the country’s history. Approximately 47,600 overdoses involved Opioids in 2017, up from 42,00 in 2016. Fatal car wrecks only totaled about 40,000 deaths that year. Yet, a report from the journal Addiction claims that Opioid-involved overdoses may be underestimated by as much as 35%, making the chances of Opioid-related death even higher.
The odds of dying from an Opioid overdose are 1 in 96, compared to 1 in 103 for car wrecks.
For Americans under 50, accidental drug overdoses are the leading cause of death. Overdose deaths across all categories of drugs tripled between 1999 and 2016, and Opioid-related deaths skyrocketed from 2.9 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 14.9 in 2017.
Recently, a surge in overdose deaths have come from the abuse of illicit Opioids like Heroin and Fentanyl. The cause: Many people dependent on their prescription pain relievers (such as OxyContin®) turned to more potent and cheaper street drugs to ward off excruciating symptoms of withdrawal.
The Omnipresence of Illicit Fentanyl
Though many outlets contribute more overdoses to a rise in the presence of Fentanyl (a synthetic Opioid up to 50 times more powerful than Heroin), many fail to make clear how ubiquitous the substance has become in manufacturing illicit drugs. Fentanyl can be lethal in amounts as little as two milligrams (enough to fit inside Roosevelt’s head on the dime). Increasingly, it is being used in the manufacture of counterfeit pills (like Vicodin®), Heroin, Cocaine, and Meth.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported 5,533 Fentanyl cases from nationwide forensic labs; in 2017, preliminary reports estimated 56,517 cases. Deaths involving Fentanyl can be difficult to identify due to similarities in Opioid molecule structures. Nonetheless, synthetic Opioid overdoses (such as those involving Fentanyl) are the leading cause of Opiate-related death–and continue to increase in number. In 2017, 28,000 overdose deaths involved synthetic Opioids.
Other Leading Causes of Death
As deadly as Opioids are to Americans today, tobacco and alcohol-related deaths outpaced drug overdoses. Deaths per year in the U.S. in 2016 included: