Drug Overdose Now Leading Cause of Death for Americans Under 50
The numbers are in. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
Not car crashes or cardiovascular disease… drug overdoses.
To put the opioid crisis in perspective:
Opioid deaths have now surpassed:
Comparing those numbers to recent tragedies like the Pulse Night Club Attack, there would have to be three mass shootings every day for 365 days to roughly equate to the number of drug overdoses in 2015.
Officials across the country declare the drug overdose epidemic as a public health crisis. In the past decade or so, the numbers of fatalities related to drug overdoses have soared.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein officially announced the statistic on drug overdoses Tuesday to the media. Chuck Rosenberg, acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and other prominent officials in law enforcement also addressed the media at the DEA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA.
“We’re not talking about a slight increase. There’s a horrifying surge of drug overdoses in the United States of America. Some people say we should be more permissive, more tolerant, more understanding about drug use. I say we should be more honest and forthcoming with the American people on the clear and present danger that we know face,” opened Rosenstein.
“Fentanyl is especially dangerous. It is 40 to 50 times more deadly than heroin. Just two milligrams, a few grains of salt, an amount you could fit on the tip of your finger, can be lethal. Fentanyl exposure can injure or kill innocent law enforcement officers and first responders. Inhaling a few airborne particles can have dramatic effects,” he continued.
Despite such a bleak update, there was an air of optimism. Rosenberg spoke extensively with his Chinese counterparts in law enforcement about reducing fentanyl distribution. China is the major source of fentanyl that enters America. According to Rosenberg, the Chinese government banned 116 synthetic opioids for export and four more after his trip to China this March. Additional synthetics are scheduled for banning in the future.
“I do not want to understate such gains, nor do I want to overstate them,” he cautioned.
Still, we need more progress in international cooperation, he explained.
Rosenberg and other law enforcement officials assessed the challenges behind training first responders and admit that such efforts would stretch the limited resources available for fighting such an overwhelming epidemic.
Rosenberg’s daunting assessment of fentanyl put in perspective the existential danger of the ongoing opioid crisis. Rosenberg continues to reiterate the paths made thus far, but there is much more progress needed to improve the dire situation.
Overall, it is difficult to fully grasp the scope of the opioid epidemic. These statistics often “wash over” our minds, Rosenberg admits. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with opioid addiction, you know more than anyone how tragic and helpless it can be. Those who do not have a personal experience often struggle to understand these numbers.
However, the numbers do not lie. In Florida alone, every 15 hours last year, someone died of an opioid overdose in Palm Beach County, nearly double the rate of murders and fatal car crashes.
Addiction is a disease and needs treatment. We need to raise awareness, not stigma. More and more people are losing their lives to overdoses. The stigma has to end. If you are someone you know is struggling with drugs or alcohol abuse, please call now. You are not alone. You need help. Call today.
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A needle exchange program in the Bronx, New York is stepping up to combat the ongoing opioid crisis and rising overdose death rates. Their latest tactic is handing out fentanyl test strips to heroin users.
The reasoning behind the test strips is to lower overdoses due to fentanyl-laced heroin.
Staff member Van Asher explains that the test strips will help addicts determine whether or not there is fentanyl is the drugs they’re using. The strips are usually used to drug test urine, but people can put a little of the mixture that’s in their syringe onto the strip to test whether or not what they are injecting contains fentanyl. This will help them make a more informed decision about what they are putting in their bodies, Asher explained to NPR.
Studies conducted by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention revealed that most people do not know whether the heroin they’re using contains fentanyl. Asher told NPR that he started handing the strips out of desperation to curb the overdose rates among his clientele.
With each strip, Asher gives a survey to fill and report back. Unfortunately, Ashley admits getting clients to follow through is a difficult task.
Still, Asher is now working with programs around the country to try to replicate his idea. The idea originated at Inside in Vancouver Canada, North America’s only safe injection facility.
However, the major difference is that if someone is choosing to use their fentanyl-laced heroin at Inside, they can be medically monitored and an overdose is more likely to be reversed by staff, preventing death.
In the United States, safe injection facilities do not exist yet. While there are few areas testing the concept, none have yet to become established. Furthermore, harm reduction strategies remain a controversial topic. Therefore, it is up to the drug user to monitor how they use the drugs.
Some simply are not convinced.
Drug users like Vincente Estema explain that knowing there is fentanyl in his heroin is not going to stop him from using.
“It’s stronger! If it makes me feel the euphoria, I’m going to go for it,” he told NPR.
When an addict is at the point of wanting to use drugs, it is unlikely that the fentanyl test strips would deter them from using. However, it would at least inform them of the risk they are taking, and could potentially reduce the amount of the drug they take.
In 2015, the spike in fentanyl-laced overdose deaths led the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a nationwide warning about the drug.
“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate,” said DEA Administrator at the time, Michele Leonhart, calling it a “significant threat to public health and safety.”
During a three-month period in 2016, 74% of opioid overdoses in Massachusetts were caused by fentanyl! Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is the strongest opioid available to doctors; even worse, different variations of fentanyl are hitting the streets like carfentanil and acryl fentanyl.
The numbers from Massachusetts indicate that heroin overdoses are dropping, but opioid-related overdose deaths continue to increase. Authorities agree that fentanyl is to blame. In a press release, Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders called the data, “a sobering reminder of why the opioid crisis is so complex.”
Do you believe these strips could help combat the opioid epidemic? Would it affect how an addict uses? Regardless, any addict continues to use needs to seek help instead. The next time you use could be your last. Recovery is possible. We want to help you. Call now.
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Public bathrooms are ground zero in the opioid epidemic, according to a recent report. Addicts like Eddie* know all about this. In an interview with NPR, Eddie declares every single bathroom in Cambridge, Massachusetts that he among many others uses to get high.
“I know all the bathrooms that I can and can’t get high in,” says Eddie, 39, in the interview.
“With these bathrooms here, you don’t need a key. If it’s vacant, you go in. And then the staff just leaves you alone,” Eddie says. “I know so many people who get high here.”
Even at fast food places, Eddie has his technique for gaining access.
“You don’t need a key, but they have a security guard that sits at the little table by the door, directly in front of the bathroom,” Eddie says.
“Some guards require a receipt for admission to the bathroom,” he says, “but you can always grab one from the trash.”
Managing Public Bathrooms is ‘Tricky.’
Businesses in the area struggle to come up with solutions to the problem. Some have installed low lighting, blue in particular, to make it difficult for users to find a vein.
The city of Cambridge plans to install “Portland Loos” in the heart of Central Square by the end of the summer. The “Portland Loo” public bathrooms originated in the city of Portland, Organ. These toilets reduce privacy and ensure police can see in if they suspect illegal activity.
Furthermore, the Loos have:
- No running water inside: Prevents people from using the water to clean themselves.
- No mirror: People tend to smash mirrors.
- Bars at the top and bottom of the structure: This reduces privacy. Cops can peep in near the ground to make sure there’s no more than one set of feet inside. Furthermore, you hear sounds inside and outside of the bathrooms. Nobody wants to stick around these toilets for long.
- A graffiti-proof coating: No one will be tagging these bathrooms.
- Walls and doors made from heavy-gauge stainless steel
Business owners hope that these bathrooms will relieve pressure on their bathrooms. However, others worry they will become a haven for drug use.
The bathrooms at 1369 Coffee House in Central Square are open for customers who request the code from staff at the counter. Owner Joshua Gerber required this step to make the bathrooms safer. He also installed metal boxes in the mall next to his toilet for needles and other things that clog pipes.
“We’d find needles or people’s drugs,” Gerber says to NPR. “It’s a tricky thing, managing a public restroom in a big, busy square like Central Square where there’s a lot of drug use.”
In recent years, Geber and his staff have found several people lying on the bathroom floor unconscious.
“It’s very scary,” Gerber says. “In an ideal world, users would have safe places to go that it didn’t become the job of a business to manage that and to look after them and make sure that they were OK.”
Safe Needle Exchange Programs?
In the past, we have mentioned areas in Canada and some European Countries that offer safe areas to do drugs. The United States is slowly coming around to providing these facilities as well. Though controversial, these safe needle injection sites offer a place for addicts to use drugs and reduce overdose fatalities. They also reduce crime and will hopefully reduce drugs done in public restrooms.
The city of Las Vegas plans to decrease the risk of sharing contaminated needles by installing vending machines throughout the city. These vending machines would provide clean needles to addicts reducing infectious diseases. They would also offer disposal containers to dispose of needles safely. This would prevent needles from being disposed of improperly.
Officials in several states in America have proposed the implementation of supervised injection facilities, including:
- New York
- Washington D.C.
Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are legally sanctioned locations where people who use intravenous drugs can inject pre-obtained drugs under medical supervision. There are pros and cons to these facilities, however, they are likely to reduce drug sue on the streets and reduce infections from needle sharing. Furthermore, they reduce overdose fatalities.
Limits on Discussion and Direction
Overall, discussions on safety practices for bathrooms remain sparse. There is a reason why:
“It’s against federal and state law to provide a space where people can use knowingly, so that is a big deterrent from people talking about this problem,” says Dr. Alex Walley, director of the addiction medicine fellowship at Boston Medical Center.
Still, without guidance, many libraries, town halls, and businesses are shutting their bathrooms down to the public. Closing down public restrooms leads to more drug use, injuries and discarded needles on the streets and in parks with children playing.
There are a variety of methods that could make bathrooms safer for the public and drug users.
- A model restroom would be clean and well-lit and have very few cracks and crevices for hiding drug paraphernalia.
- Bathrooms should also contain a biohazard box for needles and bloodied swabs.
- These bathrooms would also need naloxone and perhaps sterile water.
- The door with open out so a collapsed body would not block entry.
- It would need to be easy for EMTS and authorizes to unlock from the outside in the case of an emergency.
Very few bathrooms meet these standards in the United States. Sadly, as the opioid epidemic continues to take lives each and every day, these issues must be addressed. How can cities improve the safety of their public bathrooms?
Doctors, nurses and public health workers who help addiction patients every day argue the solution will have to include safe injection sites.
If communities like Boston start to reach a breaking point with bathrooms, “having dedicated facilities like safer drug consumption spaces is the best bet for a long-term structural solution that I think a lot of business owners could buy into, “ says Daniel Raymond. Raymond is deputy director of policy and planning at the New York-based Harm Reduction Coalition.
No business groups in Massachusetts have come out for such spaces yet. Time will tell what changes occur. Getting the right kind of treatment for drug addiction is paramount to progress. If you or someone you love is struggling, don’t wait. Please call toll-free now.
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