These are the most toxic drugs killing Americans

Everyday they come. Thousands of people — whether addicted to opioids or other drugs, unable to get off them or dying from the effects of the drugs on their bodies and minds — turn…

These are the most toxic drugs killing Americans

Everyday they come.

Thousands of people — whether addicted to opioids or other drugs, unable to get off them or dying from the effects of the drugs on their bodies and minds — turn to makeshift detox centers, private rooms and homes to wean off drugs they once could have used to satisfy their cravings.

A national analysis shows overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States. And to say 2017 was a horror story for the nation is putting it mildly.

The annual rate of new drug overdoses killed more than 100,000 people in 2017, marking the first time the annual number of overdose deaths exceeded 100,000, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services said Sunday.

They are estimated to have reached nearly 63,000, the highest total in the nation’s history, the report said. In addition, emergency-room visits were 13.7 million — the highest since 2005. In the course of those emergency visits, 36,000 people died — and this number, too, had not been seen before.

The fatal overdoses in 2017 of prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl accounted for the bulk of the overdoses, officials said. The death toll can be even higher, because the government estimates that another 10,000 deaths were caused by illegal drugs.

These sobering statistics confirm what many experts have been seeing for years: prescription opioid painkillers continue to overwhelm medical care and, in some cases, overwhelm volunteer groups and police.

“There is no new data that is helpful in helping this to be a more pressing public health crisis. This is something that has been going on for decades,” said Dr. Robert Kunz, deputy director for medical services at Health and Human Services and co-author of the report.

The 74,000 overdose deaths in 2017 represented an increase of more than 2,000 deaths from 2016.

“This is a staggering increase. A number like this is hard to fathom,” he said.

Calling on Congress to close a loophole that allows Internet pharmacies to evade inspection, Health and Human Services said the problem remains so widespread that every year, 1,000 Americans die while seeking prescriptions online. It said the number of people overdosing in 2017 exceeded the entire deaths from smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs combined.

“Despite the difficult job the opioid crisis is facing, each day we see more and more desperate individuals trying to get addicted,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in announcing the numbers.

Part of the challenge is that drug abusers and their families may not be able to find help, instead turning to neighbors, friends and strangers for a place to detox and a place to live for recovery.

And many patients get addicted even before they are ready to leave a hospital or rehabilitation center. That is because the dearth of rehabilitation and recovery beds across the country means patients who seek help often are discharged just as they are nearing their heroin or other overdose-inducing high.

If a person overdoses today, there is only about four months’ time before they face death in an emergency room. About 5.6 million visits to hospital emergency rooms for opioid overdoses last year, more than double the 2.5 million visits in 2005.

Yet finding detox centers — many lacking the type of standards required by a recent clinical journal article and allowed by federal law — is an even harder challenge. About 29,000 people get the care they need every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, there are some successes.

“Our work to reduce opiate deaths is challenging, but you can see progress,” Ms. Azar said.

Part of the challenge is that drug abusers and their families may not be able to find help, instead turning to neighbors, friends and strangers for a place to detox and a place to live for recovery.

Finding detox centers — many lacking the type of standards required by a recent clinical journal article and allowed by federal law — is an even harder challenge. About 29,000 people get the care they need every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, there are some successes.

“Our work to reduce opiate deaths is challenging, but you can see progress,” Ms. Azar said.

Leave a Comment