America’s Crisis with Opioids: The Breadth and Depth of the Opioid Epidemic

America’s Crisis with Opioids: The Breadth and Depth of the Opioid Epidemic

This is the second in a three-part series on the most serious crisis America is facing. Last week’s column introduced you to how serious the problem is and the particular exposure for adolescents. This week we see how deep this problem radiates throughout our country.

How serious can a problem become to be declared a national emergency by the U.S. president?

More than just adolescents, this problem has a depth and breadth that can stagger you.

In 2015, approximately 92 million adults in America used prescription opioids. We know many use these drugs within the parameters established by their medical professionals without abusing the drugs.

Still it is estimated that 11.5 million adults misused the drugs. What this means is these adults did not use the drugs within the directed parameters either by using the wrong dosage or for a longer period of time than directed. They could have also taken them without a prescription for a reason other than for which the drug was additionally prescribed. There is a massive population of “abusers.”

Those are the people who only have a problem. Another 1.9 million Americans had the far more serious determination of having an opioid use disorder. The criteria for having this disorder means that opioid use interferes with your normal life activities — be it work, school or your home life. More importantly, the user suffers withdrawals if they stop usage (they are addicted). Far worse, many die of an overdose.

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To understand how matters have accelerated since the benchmark period of 1999, the rate of overdose deaths was 2.5 times higher in 2015 (21.1 per 100,000 people). The rate increased more among males than females, but was still significantly higher for females in 2015.

Though the problem was widespread throughout the United States, some places were hit harder than others. West Virginia had almost twice the national average of drug overdose deaths in 2015. New Hampshire was the next most affected at 162%, the national average followed by Kentucky and Ohio, which were at 142%. Twenty-one states had higher experiences of drug overdoses than others, concentrated principally in the Midwest and Southwest.

It was not just geographic factors that led to greater opioid problems. If you want to avoid the problem, get married, as the never…


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