Health and Healthcare Systems

Opioid overdoses kill more each year in the US than car accidents

A needle used for shooting heroin and other opioids lies in the street in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller - RC1A8AC5B7E0

The data on opioids is troubling. Image: REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

Natasha Bach
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Think you’re likely to die in a plane crash or train wreck?

Think again. According to a new report on preventable deaths from the National Safety Council, Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than either of these outcomes — and it’s even more likely than a motor vehicle accident or simply falling over.

For the first time in U.S. history, Americans now have a 1 in 96 chance of accidentally dying from an opioid overdose, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the nation. The second leading cause meanwhile, motor vehicle crashes, has a probability of 1 in 103.

These odds are followed by falling, with a 1 in 114 chance, while the odds of dying while in a plane (1 in 188,364) or on a train (1 in 243,765) are far more remote.

The data on opioids is troubling. More than 100 people die every day from opioids, totaling over 37,000 people each year. The figures also show that 69% of preventable drug overdose deaths involve opioids, with the number of opioid-related deaths increasing an astonishing 544% since 1999.

Image: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

This increase is particularly seen amongst women: the CDC found that the opioid overdose rate for women aged 30 to 64 has increased 492% since 1999, the highest increase for any population group. Fentanyl is often the biggest killer. Drug overdoses involving the drug increased by 113% each year between 2013 and 2016.

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Worse, with the government shutdown ongoing, opioid users are now at even greater risk. Sen. Chuck Schumer told The New York Daily News on Sunday that doctors must get permission from the DEA to prescribe at least one anti-opioid drug, Buprenorphine. The shutdown means that doctors can’t access the necessary members of the DEA, however, and are thus unable to provide patients with the medication.

“Simply put, the DEA, in many ways, holds the keys to accessing critical anti-opioid treatment drugs that New York City and Long Island patients and doctors need to combat this deadly scourge,” he explained.

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