February 19, 2018

Researcher Says Our Opioid Death Stats Are Way Off

10 August 2017, 03:25 | Rufus Hill

Getty Imagesopioids Dying From an Opioid Overdose Is More Common Than You Think Alexandra Sifferlin5:33 PM ETTIME Health For more visit TIME Health

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Drug overdose deaths climbed sharply in the first nine months of 2016 despite a beefed-up effort to stem the nation's opioid epidemic, new government data shows. Those deaths are then kept out of the total rate of USA opioid-related fatalities, which means we don't have an actual number of opioid-related deaths.

His results claim the national rate of fatal opioid overdoses spiked in 2014 from 9 for every 100,000 people to 11.2, while the rate of fatal heroin overdoses jumped from 3.3 to 4 per every 100,000 people. He and his team revisited thousands of death certificates from 2008 to 2014 and found that mortality rates were 24 percent higher for opioids and 22 percent higher for heroin than had been previously reported.

The age-adjusted quarterly death rate for drug overdoses increased by more than 20-percent between the first quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016.

The Keystone state was ranked 32nd by the CDC for opioid deaths for 2014, with 8.5 per 100,000.

"This occurs when no specific drug is identified on the death certificates", he said in the study. "I was surprised in the difference in some states". These corrections were then applied on a state-by-state basis to produce opioid- and heroin-specific death rates. "We need to understand what's going in different areas". Similarly, Indiana's rankings moved from 36th and 29th to 15th and 19th, respectively, and Louisiana's from 40th and 31st to 21st and 20th, respectively. Without corrections, the death growth rates for opioids were underreported in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey and Arizona, but dramatically overestimated in South Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida and Kentucky. "Increases in heroin death rates were understated in most states, and by large amounts in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana and Alabama".

New York City has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, recording a record 1,374 unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2016.

"Having an emphasis from the chief medical officers in the state, all the way to governors, I think that's a starting point", he said. "More fundamentally, geographic disparities in drug poisoning deaths are substantial and a correct assessment of them is nearly certainly a prerequisite for designing policies to address the fatal drug epidemic", concludes Dr. Ruhm.

On the same day the NCHS statistics were released, President Donald Trump said he would receive a "major briefing" on the opioid crisis with top administration officials Tuesday afternoon at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. He added that we still have to see if it "is a consistent push" or one in which the "problem is mentioned and is not pursued". He also said that the "best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place".

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