Overdose deaths on the rise

Wes Williams Oct 21, 2015

President Obama is visiting West Virginia on Wednesday to announce steps to combat the growing heroin and prescription opioid problem in the U.S.  But what does that problem actually look like these days?


The number of deaths nationwide due to heroin use has more than quadrupled over the last 13 years, and while prescription opioid deaths — caused by drugs like oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine — are still on the rise, the rate appears to have leveled off in recent years. However, the data are clear that these problems are linked.

Here’s how opiate abuse breaks down by the numbers:

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Someone who uses opioid painkillers is that much more likely to be addicted to heroin compared to someone who isn’t. Forty-five percent of people who used heroin also were addicted to opioid painkillers according to the CDC, which is why President Obama’s plan is expected to tackle overprescribing and physician training.

But part of the problem facing opioid users is sometimes beyond the reach of the doctors prescribing the pills.


That’s how many states reported that the majority of the medication-assisted treatment programs in their state are 80 percent full, or worse. President Obama plans to expand federal insurance coverage for medication-assisted treatment and partnerships with private insurers to the tune of 540,000 providers.

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That’s how much more naloxone cost at the end of 2014 compared to just six months before. Naloxone is a life-saving opioid overdose prevention drug. If the price continues to rise at the current rate, it will become more difficult to make it available to combat the intense increase in heroin overdose deaths that the nation faces.

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