The New York Times reported Monday that 60,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in 2016. This is the largest historical annual increase recorded in the United States.
This alarming number is another outcome of opioid addiction - a growing public health crisis made even more deadly with a recent influx of illegally made fentanyl and other similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Experts are calling drug and opioid addiction as a "modern plague."
The data gathered by the Time's is still preliminary, but estimates show that drug deaths rose 19 percent over the 52,404 recorded in 2015. As for 2017, evidence has suggested that the problem will continue to worsen
Rounding up information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, final numbers won't be calculated until December since drug deaths take a while to verify.
"It’s the only aspect of American health," said Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the C.D.C., "that is getting significantly worse." Over two million Americans are estimated to be dependent on opioids, and an additional 95 million used prescription painkillers in the past year.
So many overdoses related to opioids were reported last year that in some instances across the country, coroner's offices have run out of space in their county morgues, and have had to request for refrigerated trailers to store bodies.
Difficult road to recovery
Most recovering from opioid addiction need several tries to get clean. The severity of opioid withdrawal is excruciating, so users rarely get clean unless they are determined and have treatment readily available. Though possible, it is difficult for families to come in and help - despite their best efforts. Cliff Parker, 24 of Akron, Ohio said: “No one wants their family to find them face down with a needle in their arm, but no one stops until they’re ready.”
Emergency responders have said that this one (its deadliest derivative) are involved in any overdose, it can be so severe that multiple doses of another one — the anti-overdose medication that often goes by the brand name — are needed to help victims out. Chief investigator Doyle Burke of Warren County, Ohio said that “E.M.S. crews are hitting them with 12, 13, 14 hits of with no effect just like using a squirt gun in a house fire.”
Chuck Rosenberg, the acting administrator of the Federal Anti-drug Agency, has even warned emergency responders to be extremely careful in drug overdose cases. "If you don't know what it is, assume there's something in it that will kill you.'' There has been an increase in cases wherein emergency responders have also gotten sick by handling overdose situations. He has told the to wear protective masks, gloves, etc. to reduce the chance of accidental contamination. This also includes dogs trained to detect illegal drugs since this new breed of synthetic, lab-made drugs are truly deadly.