14 Shocking Facts from U.S. Summit on Opiate Abuse

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

On Thursday the Obama administration hosted a summit on opioid abuse to address the dramatic rise in drug overdoses in the United States.

To give you an idea of the scope of this growing epidemic, opiate overdoses in the state of Ohio have shot up 400 percent in the last decade. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech on heroin and prescription drugs that revealed a number of shocking statistics.

  • 1. Opiate overdoses have more than doubled since 1999
    Last year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of drug overdose deaths had increased for the 11th consecutive year. In 1999, there were 16,849 reported overdoses. By 2010, that number had increased to 38,329. Sixty percent of overdoses involved pharmaceutical drugs.
  • 2. North America is the biggest consumer of heroin in the world
    Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, told the Huffington Post, “Canada is the No. 2 user of opiates in the world next to the U.S., so there’s a lot of prescription opioids out there in the market.” Overdoses have increased in Toronto, Ontario and Quebec.
  • 3. Heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription painkillers
    According to the CDC, many heroin addicts start out by getting addicted to prescription painkillers. They turn to heroin because it is less expensive and easier to obtain than a prescription. Half of the opiate overdoses in 2011 were related to painkillers.
  • 4. Opioid use has spiked among young people
    The number of young adults and teenagers using heroin has gone up, particularly in New England. Cheryl Bartlett, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, stated, “What’s happened is it hit a crescendo that it’s affecting every community.”
  • 5. Opiate addicts are “doctor shopping” at “pill mills”
    In his speech, the Attorney General (pictured) said, “We’ve disrupted pill mills masquerading as pain management clinics around the country.” Daniel P. Malloy, the governor of Connecticut, said, “People get introduced to a drug and enjoy the use of that product, and that in many cases leads to doctor or clinic shopping.’’
  • 6. Federal funds are allocated to monitor prescription drugs
    Federal authorities are targeting the supply chain, the Attorney General said on Thursday. The DEA and U.S. Justice Department have identified a strategy to investigate pharmaceutical applications. Drug take back events provide motivation for parents to clean out their medicine cabinets.
  • 7. Heroin overdoses often involve other controlled substances
    The Washington Post reports that heroin overdoses are notoriously hard for doctors to determine. They mention that this is because many users are simultaneously under the effects of alcohol and other drugs.
  • 8. A large portion of overdoses involve mental health patients
    A 2013 report from the CDC confirms that many drug overdoses in the U.S. involve mental health patients. If 60 percent of overdoses involved opioids, 30 percent involved anxiety medication (Benzodiazepines), 18 percent antidepressants and 6 percent anti-psychotic drugs.
  • 9. Heroin dealers can be charged with manslaughter
    Authorities are increasingly beginning to charge heroin dealers with manslaughter after their product is involved in an overdose death. For this reason autopsies must be performed as soon as possible.
  • 10. People are afraid to contact the authorities during an emergency
    Many people who overdose are afraid to call 911 because they don’t want to get arrested. Many states are institutionalizing Good Samaritan laws that provide a measure of protection for people that report drug overdoses.
  • 11. It is not legal for first responders to carry Naloxone in every state
    Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, is not readily available everywhere. The Attorney General announced that in some states it is now legal for first responders to carry Naloxone. In other states it can now be obtained over the counter.
  • 12. The state of Vermont faces a “full blown heroin crisis”
    Five New England governors met privately at Brandeis University last Wednesday, preceding the summit in Washington D.C. Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont, who devoted his entire State of the State address to opiate abuse, said, “There’s just no doubt in my mind that the single thing that can undermine our quality of life as a region is addiction to opiates.”
  • 13. Maine is focusing on law enforcement to fight heroin use
    Governor Paul LePage of Maine was the only chief executive absent from the meeting at Brandeis University. The Boston Globe reports he is focusing on law enforcement to combat the issue.
  • 14. Heroin is a public health emergency in Massachusetts
    The representative that convened the private talks, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, has declared a public health emergency in his state. He also announced a $20 million plan that involves an expansion of substance abuse treatment.

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