Dramatic Increase in Drug Overdoses in the US
In 2015, the rate for whites was almost three times higher than that among Hispanics and almost double the rate for blacks, USA Today said.
Overall, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths in 2015 at 16.3 per 100,000 was more than 2.5 times the rate in 1999, when it was 6.1 per 100,000. The majority of the deaths are attributed to opioids - heroin and prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. While all age groups saw increases in death, the 55-to-64 group saw the biggest increase, with a five-fold jump since 1999.
In 2015, the highest rate of drug overdose deaths was among people ages 45 to 54, with a rate of 30 deaths per 100,000 people.
"Life expectancy of whites in America is going down, whereas it's not going down for other racial or ethnic groups", Salsitz said.
The overdose death rate for non-Hispanic black persons in 2015 was 12.2 deaths per 100,000, an increase from 7.5 in 1999, while the rate for Hispanic persons went up from 5.4 to 7.7 over that time period.
The states with the highest rates of overdose deaths in 2015 were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and OH, the study found.
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The latest statistics come as authorities in several parts of the United States grapple with opioid and heroin crises.
Prescription drug abuse reached epidemic levels earlier this decade, prompting a crackdown by regulators, drug makers, pharmacists and physicians. Pharmaceutical companies also introduced tamper-resistant forms of the medications that couldn't be crushed or altered in ways that provided a stronger, quicker hit for drug abusers, Salsitz explained. Heroin's increase was met with decreases in drug deaths including oxycodone and methadone.
"Because heroin and synthetic opioids are cheaper than prescription opioids and more widely available in certain areas hit hard by the epidemic, a singular focus on reducing accessibility to prescription opioids misses the mark", Vuolo said.
The four states with the highest age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2015 were West Virginia (41.5), New Hampshire (34.3), Kentucky (29.9), and OH (29.9). The percentage share of deaths related to synthetic opioids not including methadone, such as fentanyl, increased from 8 percent to 18 percent; the share of cocaine-involved deaths increased from 11 percent to 13 percent; and the share of deaths related to psychostimulants such as methamphetamine went up from 5 percent to 11 percent.
The center cites dropping prices and increasing potency for the rise in deaths.
Overdoses increased in all age groups.
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