Four Reasons Why the Opioid Epidemic Is Getting Worse, Not Better

Posted March 08, 2018

In just one year, overdoses from opioids jumped by about 30 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The increases in overdoses were seen in adults of all age groups". Overdoses increased 40.3 percent in the West, 21.3 percent in the Northeast, 20.2 percent in the Southwest and 14 percent in the Southeast.

The report did not break down overdoses by type of opioid, be it prescription pain pills, heroin, fentanyl or others. "However, if the person is seen in the ED, we are presented with an opportunity to take steps toward preventing a repeat overdose, ideally linking an individual to care and potentially preventing an overdose death".

"Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses", said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat.

The supply of those more risky drugs is increasing faster in some parts of the country than in others, which may help explain the geographic variations, Schuchat says.

Schuchat further admits that "we think that the number of people addicted to opioids is relatively stable". It also is increasing community outreach efforts to nursing homes to help address prescription opioid addiction among the elderly.

"The sharp increases and variation across states and counties indicate the need for better coordination and readiness for regional or multiple state outbreaks", she said.

The CDC report found the opioid-related emergency room visits rose an average 35 percent across 16 states between July 2016 and September 2017.

"We don't have to wait until it's too late", Schuchat said.

However, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are among states showing a decrease in such visits, according to the CDC data.

"There's a lot more we can do", he said. Kentucky, meanwhile, reported a statistically significant decrease (15%).