Sharp Increase in Deaths from Heroin and Prescription Painkiller Overdoses

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
(graphic: AP/CBS)

Drug overdoses in the United States have continued to rise, led by soaring increases in heroin and prescription painkiller deaths.


Fatal drug overdoses in 2014 totaled 47,055, a 7% increase from 2013, according to figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. But that was nothing compared to the spikes in deaths from heroin-related overdoses, which surged 28% last year, and prescription painkiller overdoses, which jumped 16.3%.


Heroin deaths, which numbered 10,574 in 2014, have tripled over the past five years. The rise in opioid overdoses has come despite local, state and federal agencies devoting “additional resources to cracking down on illegal drug traffic, more widely distributing the drug naloxone, which reverses overdoses, and sending users to treatment instead of jail when possible,” Lenny Bernstein reported at The Washington Post.


“The bottom line is the opioid overdose epidemic has not abated and appears to have soared in 2014,” Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Bernstein. “It’s clear that we need to do more.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Deaths from Heroin Overdoses Surged in 2014 (by Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post)

Painkiller Overdoses Kill More in Tennessee than Car Accidents or Guns (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Increasing Addiction to Prescription Opioids Fuels Rise in Heroin Overdose Deaths (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

My Sister Died of an Overdose of Prescription Painkillers (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


walt 8 years ago
Mivoyses ; For your conditions, it would be wise to look into a more natural and non-lethal alternative. Cannabis is one treatment that has been proven to relive your symptoms and is perfectly safe. It is non addictive and does not poison and destroy your body as prescription drugs do. Cannabis oil (The real oil- not the synthetic oil made by pharma companies) has helped many continue normal lives. Please look into this.
Mivoyses 8 years ago
Let me first state two things. 1-I am retired law enforcement 2-I am currently on pain medication for injuries and MS That being said I have a unique perspective regarding opiod medications. While I see and understand the need for control and legitimate dispensing, I also see the other side of that as a patient. In Florida the laws and regulations have become so severe that those of us with legitimate needs more often than not cannot get our medication. Doctors are gun shy of the DEA and other regulatory bodys. Pharmacys are also taking it on themselves to overrule and rewrite doctors prescriptions. As an example of this I give a recent personal event. The day after Thanksgiving I had and MS flare. My flares involve severe pain. Being a holiday none of my doctors (Primary care/Neurology/Pain mgmt) were available. So I had no choice but the ER. The ER doctor was quite thorough, checking my history, reviewing the state database, etc. He concluded that to help relieve the flare I needed more medication. This he flet confifent doing based on my history and his findings from the database that I was not abusing or diverting the medication. So off to the chain pharmacy I went with my wife. The pharmacist on duty not only refused to fill the rx, she also called the doctor and told him he had written the rx wrong. Ultimately she refused to fill the rx. So in this instance we have a legitimate need, reviewed and approved by a licensed physician, then disallowed by a pharmacist. I was unaware that pharmacists had medical degrees. Yes there needs to be more controls on opiod medications. This control needs to come in the form of more training for doctors since they are the point of origination. Doctors "should" be able to tell which patients needs are legitimate and which are not. Yes, there will be those doctors who are going to write the rx simply because it is a returning patient and thus guarranteed income, but with government oversight of the rx source this can be kept to a minimum. That being said however we should not discourage or create a climate of fear for doctors to write prescriptions for patients with legitimate needs. As is beginning to happen with current regulatory policy. From my experience in law enforcement those with addiction issues are the only ones who can help themselves. You can have every resource available but unless they want to use them you can't make them, it just doesn't work that way. And no we cannot and should not in most cases decide arbitrarily that we know better how and what people should do with their lives. Ultimately there comes a time for personal responsibility. If bad things happen because of freedom of choice them, gee, bad things happen. Yes opiod medications are addictive, but they do have proper uses. With regulatory oversight of prescriptions going to those with legitimate needs over time this will balance itself out. Finally, it never ceases to amaze me how those individuals or organizations with a vested financial interest (usually funding) cry that the sky is falling and that more needs to be done. (usually in the form of more funding)

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