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Opioid and Other Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Record Levels in US

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in late December 2015 chronicled the disturbing rise in drug overdose deaths in the United States, particularly those caused by opioid drugs such as heroin.

Drug overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 1999, filling up hospital beds and drug rehab centers from the rural U.S. to the heroin epicenters of greater Los Angeles. A disproportionate number of overdose deaths were due to opioids, and the number of opioid overdose deaths recorded in 2014 was the highest on record.

Between 2000 and 2014, nearly half a million people in the U.S. have died from drug overdoses, according to the CDC. The problem has gotten so big that overdose deaths now outnumber deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

With such a large proportion of Americans abusing opioids, drug rehab centers are hard-pressed to treat all incoming cases. Local governments are working to increase the availability of opioid overdose-antidote drug Narcan (naloxone) in high-risk areas such as Los Angeles, and the CDC has urged physicians to limit their prescription of opioid painkillers in an effort to curb the rising epidemic.

Law enforcement agencies, public health agencies and medical examiners are to work together to pinpoint opioid overdose outbreaks as they occur, and refer those at risk of future overdose to rehab centers where they can receive medical and behavioral treatment for their addictions, the CDC suggests.

In 2014, California led the nation in overdose deaths, with more than 4,500 occurring from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Ohio came in second, with more than 2,700 overdose deaths in 2014.

In order to curb future opioid drug abuse, the sheer number of opioid painkillers on the market needs to be significantly reduced, and the general public needs to be properly educated about the dangers of prescription opioid painkillers.

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