Drug Overdoses Now The Leading Killer Of American Adults Under 50
Overdoses, made increasingly common by the introduction of fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids into the heroin supply, are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017. One coroner in Western Pennsylvania told a local newspaper that his office is literally running out of room to store the bodies, and that it was recently forced to buy a larger freezer.
The initial data points to large increases in these types of deaths in states along the East Coast, particularly Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, which filed a lawsuit last week accusing five drug companies of abetting the opioid epidemic, the Times estimated that overdose deaths increased by more than 25 percent in 2016.
First responders are finding that, with fentanyl, carfentanil and the other analogues, overdoses can be so severe that multiple shots of naloxone - the anti-overdose medication that often goes by the brand name Narcan - are needed to revive people. One EMT in Warren County, Ohio told the Times that sometimes as many as 14 doses of Narcan are needed to revive a patient.
“It’s frustrating, because we really do want to track this stuff,” he said.
While the process in each state varies slightly, death certificates are usually first filled out by a coroner, medical examiner or attending physician. These death certificates are then collected by state health departments and sent to the N.C.H.S., which assigns what’s called an ICD-10 code to each death. This code specifies the underlying cause of death, and it’s what determines whether a death is classified as a drug overdose, the NYT reported.
We can say with confidence that drug deaths rose a great deal in 2016, but it is hard to say precisely how many died or in which places drug deaths rose most steeply. Because of the delay associated with toxicology reports and inconsistencies in the reported data, our estimate could vary from the true number by several thousand.