The numbers of drug-related deaths in the United States remain horrific, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine and The latest figures include more than 100 drug overdose deaths each day.
Forty-six Americans, on average, die each day from prescription opioid drug overdoses, using 2013 figures. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2013, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Public Health Service (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) found that 24.6 million people 12 years of age or older live with substance abuse with an estimated 1.9 million dealing with opioid pain reliever addiction. An additional 517,000 were found to be addicted to heroin, the study found.
The death toll does not always tell the whole story. Drug addicts also die from a variety of accidents and other illnesses brought on by their weakened physical state. Still, the numbers indicate two Americans die each hour from prescription opioid abuse, which is 17,000 per year. Furthermore, “while illicit opioid poisonings increased by 12.4 percent from 1999 to 2002, the number of prescription opioid analgesic poisonings in the United States increased 91.2 percent during that same period,” the ASAM said.
In recent years, about 8,200 Americans die every year from heroin overdose.
But here are two startling statistics. First, drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury death in 2013 – greater than either homicides or car accidents. Secondly, the annual survey found that about 75 percent of opioid addiction patients switch to heroin, because it is cheaper than pills.
This incredible statistic is beyond belief, in part because 259 million opioid pain prescriptions were written in 2012 – enough, says ASAM, for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
Isn’t it supposed to go the other way around? One would think that heroin addicts turn to opioid drugs, considering them safer, legal, with reliable doses, no chance of the drug cut by other dangerous products, which do not include the risk of passing infections by sharing needles.
Not so. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a recent survey found that death rates from prescriptions declined from 6 per 100,000 people from 2010 to 2012, while the death rate related to heroin overdoses more than doubled from 1 per 100,000 to 2.1 per 100,000.
A big reason is cost. Prescription opioid pills can sell for $40 per pill, while a small bag of heroin is available for $10, said a report in the Daily Beast.
Addictive drugs and alcohol change brain chemistry and regulates mood. Addicts stay hooked due to a fear of withdrawal symptoms, which can begin within 12 hours for heroin and within eight to 12 hours for prescription opioids. Slower withdrawal patterns are associated with benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin and Ativan, while withdrawal symptoms for cocaine can kick in within an hour after the last dose. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol addiction are evident within eight hours to a few days after cessation, says the AAC.
This explains why alcoholics drink every day and why cocaine addicts are so quickly frantic for a fix. Heroin addicts also behave according to the withdrawal pattern, requiring a fix once or twice a day.