The National Safety Council released a study stating that Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a vehicle crash.
“The group analyzed preventable injuries and deaths in 2017 and found the odds of dying by accidental opioid overdose to be 1 in 96 and the odds of a motor vehicle crash 1 in 103.”
Each day, 130 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The drug headlining many of these overdose deaths is illicit fentanyl; a powerful and dangerous synthetic opioid that has spread like wildfire in black markets for drugs.
How did we get to this point? How did we arrive at a point in US history where more people are dying from an opioid overdose than a car accident?
In the 1990’s pain pills were aggressively marketed by pharmaceutical companies to doctors, and marketed as being “safe”. This led doctors to prescribe pain pills more often, and in higher amounts. Eventually, many patients became addicted and the federal government brought criminal charges to companies for marketing their pain pills as being safer and less addictive then other opioids. In the last 15 years, the DEA and CDC have worked hard to create regulations surrounding pain pills and prescribing them.
The CDC has reported that the national life expectancy rate is declining as the number of fatal opioid overdoses rise. Those born in 2017 are expected to live to be 78.6 years old, whereas babies born in 2016 had a 1.2 month higher life expectancy. Stats like this one make the epidemic a very real and scary crisis.
However, there are many solutions that can be applied such as expanding access to addiction treatment, giving easier access to medications such as buprenorphine, that treat addiction and reduce mortality rate for patients.
“Vermont saw its overdose death rate drop by around 6 percent in 2017 with the continued expansion of a hub and spoke system that integrates addiction treatment into the rest of health care. Rhode Island also saw a roughly 2 percent drop, as it implemented, among other changes, better access to opioid addiction medications in its prisons and jails. And Massachusetts saw a roughly 3 percent drop, along with a public health campaign that has emphasized more addiction treatment, including in emergency rooms, and fewer painkiller prescriptions.”
Beth Leipholtz (2018). Opioid Overdose Deaths Surpass Vehicle Crash Deaths For First Time. https://www.thefix.com/opioid-overdose-deaths-surpass-vehicle-crash-deaths-first-time
German Lopez (2018). Americans are now more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car crashes. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/15/18183815/opioid-epidemic-car-crashes-national-safety-council
Jessica Bursztynsky (2018) Americans more likely to die from opioid overdose today than car accident. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/15/americans-more-likely-to-die-from-opioid-overdose-than-car-accident.html