American Opioids Deaths Have Quadrupled In 18 Years

The opioid crisis is the most significant public health issue affecting the US at the moment. Opioid-related deaths across the country have risen more than 4-fold in 18 years, from 2.9 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 13.2 per 100,000 people in 2016, according to a new report.

More than 351,000 Americans have died of opioids between 1999 and 2016, according to the report published Friday by Mathew Kiang, ScD, Center for Population Health Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, and other researchers from the University of Toronto.

Researchers showed that the highest concentration of opioid deaths is located in eight Eastern states: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, and Ohio.

"Although opioid-related mortality has been stereotyped as a rural, low-income phenomenon concentrated among Appalachian or midwestern states, it has spread rapidly, particularly among the eastern states. The increase in mortality has been driven primarily by synthetic opioids, which shows a distinct geographical patterning from east to west. Twenty-eight eastern states had synthetic opioid–related mortality rates that are at least doubling every 2 years, with half of those states experiencing a doubling in mortality rates every year. Of these 28 states, 12 had mortality rates from synthetic opioids greater than 10 per 100,000," the resaerchers note.

The report warned the crisis has unfolded in three waves.

The first wave started right before the Dot Com bust and ended around the 2008 financial crisis. The second wave formed around the time when the Federal Reserve started up the printing presses in 2009, was associated with a significant increase in heroin-related deaths. Then the third wave took over around 2015/16, involves a rapid rise in deaths related to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

Synthetic opioids are now contaminating other illegal drugs, such as designer drugs, cocaine, and methamphetamines. 

Researchers said opioid overdose deaths are occurring across a wide range of people, and in 2016 and 2017, a 26% increase in deaths were seen among the African American population.

The crisis was so hard-hitting in 2016 that Americas' life expectancy declined .36 years.

About 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, setting a new national record, the CDC reported in 2018.

Looking forward, the third wave of the crisis will be the most prolonged and deadliest wave.

Synthetic opioids are even having a tremendous impact on the nation's labor market and economy.

Record drug overdoses tend not to occur in the "greatest economy ever," but instead economic recession/depressions.